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American Anthropology in Micronesia

An Assessment

Robert C. Kiste & Mac Marshall (eds.)

Publication Year: 1999

"A major, unique, and useful contribution to the understanding of regional ethnography in general and of Micronesia in particular. Kudos." --The Contemporary Pacific, Fall 2000 "Unique. For no other part of the world has the anthropological endeavour been so resolutely, comprehensively and even self-critically compiled, in qualitative and quantitative terms." --Australian Journal of Anthropology 12 (2001)"Clearly a significant contribution to the history of our discipline." --George W. Stocking, Jr., University of Chicago "The best compendium of its type I have ever encountered. That it is also beautifully produced helps; but mostly it's the conceptual framework and the high quality of each of the chapters and even many tidbits at the end." --Melford E. Spiro, University of California, San Diego "Despite the diversity of contributions, reflecting the perspectives of various subdisciplines of cultural anthropology, a number of recurring issues and themes emerge. These include a questioning of the notion of 'Micronesia', the tension between the postwar era of government-funded applied anthropology and the more recent period of pure research, and the degree to which American anthropological involvement in Micronesia influenced the US administration, Micronesia and Micronesians, and the wider discipline." --Journal of the Polynesian Society, September 2000 "I'm not an anthropologist ... [but] I was utterly fascinated by the historical background, thorough literature review and often painful self-reflection." --Pacific Affairs, Spring 2001

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xvi

My own fascination with the Pacific Islands began in the mid-1950s when I spent two years in military service in what was then the Territory of Hawai‘i. Later, at a small liberal arts college in Missouri, Lowell Holmes introduced me to anthropology, and his example suggested a career as an anthropologist specializing in the Pacific region. Holmes had recently completed his ...

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pp. xvii-xviii

In the course of developing this volume, the editors have become indebted to numerous individuals. Violenda “Vi” Nakahara, Secretary, Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i, has been of major assistance at all phases of the project. Most importantly, Vi prepared several versions of the manuscript as it went through the painstaking process of multiple revisions. ...


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pp. xix-xx

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pp. 1-10

This volume focuses on those Micronesian islands that have experienced American colonial rule: the Carolines, the Marshalls, and the Marianas. Not included in our purview are the contemporary Micronesian nations of Nauru and Kiribati, which lie geographically within what usually is called Micronesia but have rather different colonial histories. Over the past fifty years, ...

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Chapter One: Anthropology and Micronesia: The Context

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pp. 11-52

On Monday, December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, George Peter Murdock called together the faculty and graduate student staff of the Cross-Cultural Survey, Institute of Human Relations, Yale University, and they began the task of assembling information on the former Japanese mandated islands in Micronesia. Items they collected included the ...

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Chapter Two: Magellan’s Chroniclers? American Anthropology’s History in Micronesia

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pp. 53-80

My title, “Magellan’s Chroniclers,” comes in plural form from the two words that open William Alkire’s An Introduction to the Peoples and Cultures of Micronesia (1977). I use the phrase to introduce my own examination of the relationship between history and American anthropology in the area called “Micronesia”—a relationship deeply affected by a tradition of colonialism that ...

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Chapter Three: Cultural Ecology and Ecological Anthropology in Micronesia

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pp. 81-106

Ecological studies in anthropology are generally concerned with the interrelationship of environment, subsistence activities, and society (Steward 1955, 30–42; Heider 1972, 207). Although a significant amount of research on these topics has been undertaken in Micronesia (some of it dating from the mid-1940s), preparing this chapter has only reinforced my longstanding ...

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Chapter Four: “Partial Connections”: Kinship and Social Organization in Micronesia

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pp. 107-144

According to recent work by Marilyn Strathern (1991), Papua New Guinea highlands societies can be seen as variants of each other as a result of people’s communications and contacts with one another. In these communications, Highlanders draw from a pool of ideas that is always expanding and contracting, as new ideas are substituted for old and circulate among the ...

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Chapter Five: Politics in Postwar Micronesia

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pp. 145-196

Ambiguity and ambivalence pervade the American presence in the Western Pacific, Micronesians’ responses to it, and the outlooks of anthropologists and others who have studied there.1 Almost any generalization made about political events and processes there can be contradicted by another. Nonetheless, in this chapter I formulate several overarching points and observations: ...

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Chapter Six: Ethnicity and Identity in Micronesia

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pp. 197-224

In the last fifteen years, issues concerning ethnicity and personal and group identity have come to occupy an increasingly central place in anthropological theory. Ethnicity and identity studies have engaged a growing number of Pacific scholars, particularly those working in the new nations of Melanesia (e.g., Gewertz and Errington 1991; Keesing 1992; Larcom 1990; Pomponio ...

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Chapter Seven: Psychological Anthropology and Its Discontents: Science and Rhetoric in Postwar Micronesia

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pp. 225-254

Ifaluk Atoll is as good a place as any (and better than most) to begin considering the rather disconcerting question: What has been achieved by fifty years of research in psychological anthropology in Micronesia? After all, it is the location of the initial fieldwork of two of the most widely cited psychological anthropologists of their respective generations, Melford E. “Mel” Spiro ...

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Chapter Eight: Missed Opportunities: American Anthropological Studies of Micronesian Arts

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pp. 255-300

From their inception, American anthropological studies of the arts of Micronesia have suffered from problems of definition and analysis—obstacles that continue to this day. With the exception of the work of Edwin G. Burrows, however, these studies and conceptualizations of Micronesian arts were guided by existing paradigms. It is important to situate this research within the history ...

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Chapter Nine: American Anthropology’s Contribution to Social Problems Research in Micronesia

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pp. 301-326

Social change was not a major emphasis in the initial work of American anthropologists in Micronesia. Only two of the thirty-two reports that issued from the Coordinated Investigation of Micronesian Anthropology (cima) dealt with problems related to social change: the study of depopulation on Yap by Edward Hunt and others (1949), and Neal Bowers’ dissertation ...

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Chapter Ten: Staking Ground: Medical Anthropology, Health, and Medical Services in Micronesia

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pp. 327-360

Micronesia has been uniquely fertile ground for American anthropology during the past fifty years.1 Where else in the world has a small population and land base the size of Micronesia provided a field on which about a hundred doctoral dissertations and an uncounted number of master’s theses in anthropology have been produced? As the chapters in this volume manifest, ...

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Chapter Eleven: Anthropology and the Law in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands

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pp. 361-386

This chapter reviews some of the very first reported opinions of the US Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (USTTPI) High Court and assesses the impact of anthropologists on the development of the USTTPI judicial system in Micronesia. As one trained in the law and not in anthropology, I focus on how the USTTPI judicial and legal systems drew on and related to anthropology, ...

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Chapter Twelve: Ripples from a Micronesian Sea

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pp. 387-432

World War II was a pivotal event—perhaps the pivotal event—in modern Pacific history. Both directly and indirectly the war turned the Pacific upside down. New colonial relationships were established; new forms of transportation and communication grew rapidly after the war, building on the airfields and harbor facilities constructed as part of the war effort; and the war stimulated ...

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Chapter Thirteen: A Half Century in Retrospect

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pp. 433-468

The notion of “Micronesia” is problematic. Prior to the dissolution of the US Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (USTTPI), Americans familiar with the Pacific, including anthropologists who worked in the area, commonly referred to the trust territory as Micronesia. These two terms were often used interchangeably, and occasionally Guam was also included when Micronesia was ...

Appendix 1. American Anthropologists in Micronesia Research Projects and Positions

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pp. 469-474

Appendix 2. Micronesia Anthropology Dissertations Accepted by US Universities, 1949–1997

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pp. 475-484

Appendix 3. The “Tiny Islands”: A Comparable Impact on the Larger Discipline?

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pp. 485-514


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pp. 515-610


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pp. 611-612

Subject Index

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pp. 613-624

Name Index

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pp. 625-628

E-ISBN-13: 9780824861421
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824820176

Publication Year: 1999

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Ethnologists -- United States -- Congresses.
  • Ethnology -- Micronesia -- Congresses.
  • Micronesia -- Social life and customs -- Congresses.
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