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Pacific Islands Monograph Series

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Pacific Islands Monograph Series

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Colonialism, Maasina Rule, and the Origins of Malaitan Kastom

David W. Akin

This book is a political history of the island of Malaita in the British Solomon Islands Protectorate from 1927, when the last violent resistance to colonial rule was crushed, to 1953 and the inauguration of the island’s first representative political body, the Malaita Council. At the book’s heart is a political movement known as Maasina Rule, which dominated political affairs in the southeastern Solomons for many years after World War II. The movement’s ideology, kastom, was grounded in the determination that only Malaitans themselves could properly chart their future through application of Malaitan sensibilities and methods, free from British interference. Kastom promoted a radical transformation of Malaitan lives by sweeping social engineering projects and alternative governing and legal structures. When the government tried to suppress Maasina Rule through force, its followers brought colonial administration on the island to a halt for several years through a labor strike and massive civil resistance actions that overflowed government prison camps.

David Akin draws on extensive archival and field research to present a practice-based analysis of colonial officers’ interactions with Malaitans in the years leading up to and during Maasina Rule. A primary focus is the place of knowledge in the colonial administration. Many scholars have explored how various regimes deployed “colonial knowledge” of subject populations in Asia and Africa to reorder and rule them. The British imported to the Solomons models for “native administration” based on such an approach, particularly schemes of indirect rule developed in Africa. The concept of “custom” was basic to these schemes and to European understandings of Melanesians, and it was made the lynchpin of government policies that granted limited political roles to local ideas and practices. Officers knew very little about Malaitan cultures, however, and Malaitans seized the opportunity to transform custom into kastom, as the foundation for a new society. The book’s overarching topic is the dangerous road that colonial ignorance paved for policy makers, from young cadets in the field to high officials in distant Fiji and London. Today kastom remains a powerful concept on Malaita, but continued confusion regarding its origins, history, and meanings hampers understandings of contemporary Malaitan politics and of Malaitan people’s ongoing, problematic relations with the state.

David W. Akin is an anthropologist and independent scholar living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is the managing editor of the journal Comparative Studies in Society and History and teaches at the University of Michigan.

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Cultures of Commemoration

The Politics of War, Memory, and History in the Mariana Islands

Keith L. Camacho

In 1941 the Japanese military attacked the US naval base Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian island of O‘ahu. Although much has been debated about this event and the wider American and Japanese involvement in the war, few scholars have explored the Pacific War’s impact on Pacific Islanders. Cultures of Commemoration fills this crucial gap in the historiography by advancing scholarly understanding of Pacific Islander relations with and knowledge of American and Japanese colonialisms in the twentieth century.

Drawing from an extensive archival base of government, military, and popular records, Chamorro scholar Keith L Camacho traces the formation of divergent colonial and indigenous histories in the Mariana Islands, an archipelago located in the western Pacific and home to the Chamorro people. He shows that US colonial governance of Guam, the southernmost island, and that of Japan in the Northern Mariana Islands created competing colonial histories that would later inform how Americans, Chamorros, and Japanese experienced and remembered the war and its aftermath. Central to this discussion is the American and Japanese administrative development of "loyalty" and "liberation" as concepts of social control, collective identity, and national belonging. Just how various Chamorros from Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands negotiated their multiple identities and subjectivities is explored with respect to the processes of history and memory-making among this "Americanized" and "Japanized" Pacific Islander population. In addition, Camacho emphasizes the rise of war commemorations as sites for the study of American national historic landmarks, Chamorro Liberation Day festivities, and Japanese bone-collecting missions and peace pilgrimages.

Ultimately, Cultures of Commemoration demonstrates that the past is made meaningful and at times violent by competing cultures of American, Chamorro, and Japanese commemorative practices.

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Imagining the Other

The Representation of the Papua New Guinean Subject

Regis Tove Stella

Much has been written about Papua New Guinea over the last century and too often in ways that legitimated or served colonial interests through highly pejorative and racist descriptions of Papua New Guineans. Paying special attention to early travel literature, works of fiction, and colonial reports, laws, and legislation, Regis Tove Stella reveals the complex and persistent network of discursive strategies deployed to subjugate the land and its people.

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Law and Order in a Weak State

by Sinclair Dinnen

Twenty-five years after independence, Papua New Guinea is beset by social, economic, and political problems: poverty and inequality, a young and expanding population, a stagnant economy, corruption, and rising crime. The state has not only failed to contain these problems but has become progressively implicated in their persistence. Escalating levels of violence and lawlessness are seen by many as the most serious challenge facing the young country. This book examines these problems of order in light of Papua New Guinea’s remarkable social diversity and the impact of rapid and pervasive processes of change. Three original and strategic case studies involving urban gangs, mining security, and election violence form the core of the work. Each case study looks at particular forms of conflict, and the responses these engender, across different socioeconomic contexts and geographic locations. Empirical data are analyzed through a common framework that employs material, cultural and institutional perspectives, allowing readers to view the three cases through different theoretical prisms, identify linkages between them, and, in the process, build a larger picture of the post-colonial social order. Law and Order in a Weak State charts not only the problems of crime and lawlessness in Papua New Guinea but also the possibilities for constructive, pragmatic solutions. It will be of great interest to scholars, aid and policy officials, and others concerned with understanding the social complexities and challenges of contemporary Papua New Guinea.

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My Gun, My Brother

The World of the Papua New Guinea Colonial Police, 1920-1960

by August Ibrum K. Kituai

Despite the heated competition for colonial possessions in Papua New Guinea during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the personnel required to run an effective administration were scarce. As a result, the Australian colonial regime opted for a quick solution: it engaged Papua New Guineans—often to perform the most hazardous and most unpopular responsibilities. Based on extensive interviews with former policemen, written records of the time, and reminiscences of colonial officials, this book links events involving police, villagers, and government officers (kiaps) over a forty-year period to wider issues in the colonial history of Papua New Guinea and, by extension, of the Pacific Islands and beyond.

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The Other Side

Ways of Being and Place in Vanuatu

John Patrick Taylor

The Other Side is the first major ethnographic and historical study of the Sia Raga people of north Pentecost Island, a region that was home to the late Father Walter Lini, Vanuatu’s first prime minister. Exploring Raga social, spatial, and historical consciousness, this richly poetic account provides important theoretical contributions to ongoing debates in Pacific anthropology about the relation between structure and history, and place and time. It reveals important insights into the convergence of indigenous and exogenous cosmologies and hegemonies historically, and shows how these are implicated in contemporary social, ritual, and material cultural expressions. These analyses engage with broader concerns relating to colonial and postcolonial identities, political economy, and globalization in island Melanesia.

The Other Side combines original and substantial ethnography with sophisticated theoretical reflection that will appeal broadly across the field of anthropology. It will also be of considerable value to scholars of Pacific and Melanesian history, politics, and society. The clear writing and entertaining narrative combine to create a work that is accessible to a wide audience. The volume’s critical and reflective analysis of anthropological research makes it a valuable teaching aid in courses that focus on ethnographic methods and writing. Students in Pacific anthropology will find it especially useful.

37 illus., 3 maps

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The People Trade

Pacific Island Laborers and New Caledonia, 1865-1930

Dorothy Shineberg

The story of the people from the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) and the Solomon Islands who left their homes to work in the French colony of New Caledonia has long remained a missing piece of Pacific Islands history. Now Dorothy Shineberg has brought these laboreres to life by painstakingly assembling fragments from a wide variety of scattered records and documents. She tells the story of their recruitment, then sketches the workers’ lives in New Caledonia, describing the contractual arrangements, the kinds of work they did, their living conditions, how they spent their free time, the large numbers who sickened and died, and the choice at the end of the contract to remain in the colony as free workers or to return home. Throughout the book she throws light on the controversy about the recruiting of the Islanders: were they kidnapped? Or did they choose to leave home? If so, what motivated them? Evidently the Islanders’ cheap labor contributed to the development of the French colony, but how did the episode affect them and their homeland? The People Trade offers readers a revealing new picture of a long neglected side of the Pacific Islands labor trade.

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Songs from the Second Float

by Richard Moyle

This book, based on fieldwork spanning a decade, gives a comprehensive analysis of the musical life of a unique Polynesian community whose geographical isolation, together with a local ban on missionaries and churches, combine to allow its 600 members to maintain a level of traditional cultural practices unique to the region. Takü is arguably the only location where traditional Polynesian religion continues to be practiced. This book explores the many ways in which spirit activities impact on both domestic and ritual life, how group singing and dancing give audible and visible expression to a variety of religious beliefs, and how spirit mediums relay songs and dances from the recent dead. Takü’s community is well able to articulate the significance of their own strong performance tradition, and this book allows expert singers and dancers to speak passionately for themselves on subjects they understand intimately. Musical ethnographies from the Pacific are rare. Like Moyle’s earlier landmark volumes on Samoan and Tongan music, and also his trilogy on Australian Aboriginal music, this work will be of immense value to Pacific studies and will assume a place among the recognized staples of ethnomusicological research.

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