Gender on the Edge
Transgender, Gay, and Other Pacific Islanders
Publication Year: 2014
Particularly intriguing is the fact that gender and sexual diversity appear to be more prevalent in some regions of the world than in others. This edited volume is an exploration of the ways in which non-normative gendering and sexuality in one such region, the Pacific Islands, are implicated in a wide range of socio-cultural dynamics that are at once local and global, historical, and contemporary. The authors recognize that different social configurations, cultural contexts, and historical trajectories generate diverse ways of being transgender across the societies of the region, but they also acknowledge that these differences are overlaid with commonalities and predictabilities. Rather than focus on the definition of identities, they engage with the fact that identities do things, that they are performed in everyday life, that they are transformed through events and movements, and that they are constantly negotiated. By addressing the complexities of these questions over time and space, this work provides a model for future endeavors that seek to embed dynamics of gender and sexuality in a broad field of theoretical import.
Published by: University of Hawai'i Press
Title Page, Copyright
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Chapter 1: Gender on the Edge: Identities, Politics, Transformations
Kalissa Alexeyeff and Niko Besnier
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Gender is on the edge. Being on the edge is both a position of power and one of marginality, and it is this paradox that we address in this book. We first situate gender on the cutting edge in terms of the position it has come to occupy, in the course of the last half-century, in intellectual debates. These debates have catapulted gender to the center of the important social...
Part I: Historical Transformations
Chapter 2: Queer History and Its Discontents at Tahiti
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This chapter is motivated by questions about the uses of history in queer narratives of the present: how narratives of the past are (re)made through contemporary experiences of sexual desire and gendered belonging; how such narratives are employed in the service of projects of queer selfmaking— that is, the crafting of queer subjectivity, personhood, and identification; and, more reflexively, how we as anthropologists grapple with our...
Chapter 3: “Hollywood” and the Emergence of a fa‘afafine Social Movement in Samoa, 1960–1980
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This chapter traces the development of a fa‘afafine social movement in Western Samoa from the early 1960s to the mid-1980s. The forces and events that led to the transformation of fa‘afāfine (pl. of fa‘afafine) remain part of an ongoing and still fluid process. The early fa‘afafine networks produced a number of organizational structures in which forms of collective activity continued to be reproduced. These include fa‘afafine involvement...
Chapter 4: Representing fa‘afafine: Sex, Socialization, and Gender Identity in Samoa
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From eighteenth-century accounts of Tahiti by explorers and voyagers to twentieth-century anthropological controversies about Samoa, the sexual customs of Polynesian societies have attracted more than usual interest among Westerners. Representations of Polynesians as peoples enjoying freedom from sexual restrictions have been a source of considerable scholarly debate (for example, Besnier 1994; Freeman 1983; Mead 1928; Sahlins 1981; Tcherkézoff 2004, 2008; Wallace 2003), ...
Part II: Performing Gender
Chapter 5: Living as and Living with Māhū and Raerae: Geopolitics, Sex, and Gender in the Society Islands
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This chapter concerns two transgender categories, māhū and raerae, as they are deployed in different ways in the two major centers of the Society Islands, Tahiti and Bora Bora. The differences between the categories on the two islands are both surprising and significant, in that they highlight the specific and divergent effects of the interactions of local engagements with global and neocolonial forms, in this particular case tourism and the...
Chapter 6: Transgender in Samoa: The Cultural Production of Gender Inequality
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This chapter deals with the difficulties involved in describing or even evoking the sociocultural paths followed by Samoan fa‘afāfine and tomboys. Both labels were invented and both social categories are constructed from a heteronormative discourse—mainstream Samoan discourse and some academic literature. From these perspectives, fa‘afāfine are persons whose families and neighbors characterize them as boys at birth but who, later in life...
Chapter 7: Re-Visioning Family: Māhūwahine and Male-to-Female Transgender in Contemporary Hawai‘i
Linda L. Ikeda
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This chapter explores a particular network of transgender individuals in Honolulu, Hawai‘i, and the ways in which they construct family and other communities of belonging. Though only a minority of these individuals identify as gay, Foucault’s comments tap into the potentiality of “a way of life” over circumscribed modes of being and sexuality, as well as the inventive “self-fashioning” that appears to be central to transgender family making...
Chapter 8: Men Trapped in Women’s Clothing: Homosexuality, Cross-Dressing, and Masculinity in Fiji
Geir Henning Presterudstuen
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This chapter explores the processes of gendered self-identification among non-heteronormative ethnic Fijian men in contemporary Fiji. Although these men perform masculinity in diverse ways, they all display an ambiguous relationship to Fijian traditional notions of gender and masculinity as normative concepts. This highlights the often complex relationship between individuals’ experiences of gendered identities and culturally specific, dominant notions of gender...
Chapter 9: Two Sea Turtles: Intimacy between Men in the Marshall Islands
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It is a rainy afternoon in Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands, and the lagoon’s surface is textured with a fine turquoise upholstery of raindrops, the horizon obscured by gray mist. Under the aluminum awning of a small house next to a giant breadfruit tree, I sit with a small gathering of Marshall Islander men, drinking extra-sweetened instant coffee and enjoying...
Part III: Politics of the Global
Chapter 10: The Fokisi and the Fakaleitī: Provocative Performances in Tonga
Mary K. Good
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In the brightly lit hall of the Wesleyan church, just off the main government road that runs across the island of ‘Eua, the hired DJ blared one last upbeat Pacific Islands dance song filled with synthesizer trills, hoping to reel in a few stragglers to the night’s program. Finally, the deafening volume of the music was lowered and, amid the insect noises from the warm summer night, the leader of the ‘Eua Youth Congress took the microphone...
Chapter 11: Televisual Transgender: Hybridizing the Mainstream in Pasifika New Zealand
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Pacific transgender has long captured the erotic and intellectual imaginations of Western writers and academics. In addition to being liberally exploited as exotic spectacle, gender liminality in the Pacific provides opportunities to interrogate how masculinity and femininity are constructed and performed. It challenges notions of gender’s relationship to kinship, status, and sexuality as well as conceiving of transgender as a dynamic phenomenon deeply...
Chapter 12: Same Sex, Different Armies: Sexual Minority Invisibility among Fijians in the Fiji Military Forces and British Army
Teresia K. Teaiwa
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In the summer of 2008 and the autumn of 2009, I traveled around England trying to learn what I could about the experiences of Fiji women serving in the British Army (BA) for a research project I was conducting on Fiji women soldiers.1 Through a network of personal contacts, I was invited to stay with service personnel and their families at a range of army bases in different parts of the country. At one of these bases, I had an uncanny experience...
Chapter 13: In Sickness and in Health: Evolving Trends in Gay Rights Advocacy in Fiji
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The terrain of gender politics in Fiji is complex and variegated. Since the 1960s, women’s organizations in this Pacific Island country have been a powerful political force. Although their efforts to promote gender equality have been far from uniform and buffeted by frequent episodes of serious political upheaval, they have had a significant impact on the formalized realm of policy making both in Fiji and, more broadly, across the region...
Chapter 14: On the Edge of Understanding: Non-Heteronormative Sexuality in Papua New Guinea
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Timothy and I are perched on the edge of a hauswin, a roofed, open-sided platform in the gardens of the Poro Sapot Project, an initiative of the international NGO Save the Children. The project is the only one of its kind in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to focus explicitly and specifically on what in the world of international organizations are termed “sex workers” and “MSM,” or “men who have sex with men.” It works through a system of...
Chapter 15: Outwith the Law in Samoa and Tonga
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In Scotland, the term “outwith” is used to locate something or someone beyond the scope of a specific context or category. It is therefore an exclusionary term, but its boundaries may change depending on the context. I use the word in this chapter to engage with the focus of this book from a legal perspective. Globally transgender people have been “outwith” the law, but gradually, as the law’s boundaries have changed, some have been...
Notes on Contributors
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Publication Year: 2014