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Reviewed by:
  • Exploration & Exchange: A South Seas Anthology, 1680-1900, and: Preserving the Self in the South Seas, 1680-1840
  • Michael P J Reilly
Exploration & Exchange: A South Seas Anthology, 1680-1900, edited by Jonathan Lamb, Vanessa Smith, and Nicholas Thomas. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000. ISBN cloth 0-226-46845-3; paper 0-226-46846-1; xxv + 359 pages, figures, maps, photographs, bibliography, index. Cloth, US$49.00; paper, US$18.00.
Preserving the Self in the South Seas, 1680-1840, by Jonathan Lamb. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2001. ISBN cloth 0-226-46848-8; paper 0-226-46849-6; xii + 345 pages, photographs, bibliography, index. Cloth, US$52.00; paper, US$18.00.

Exploration & Exchange brings together twenty-eight extracts from selected European or American authors writing about their encounters in the Pacific Ocean. The book is organized thematically and chronologically into three sections: the first contains explorer and adventurer narratives written between 1680 and 1783; the second comprises texts by beachcomber and missionary authors from the 1790 s to the 1850 s; the third concerns the writings of literary travelers from the 1860 s to the 1890 s. Each section begins with an introduction contextualizing the extracts and defining particular terms, such as the Pacific coinage "beachcomber." In addition, each extract is introduced by one of the three editors, who provides biographical, textual, and historical information about the author and his or her works and discusses the selected narrative, noting particularly the ways individual authors describe their subject matter. [End Page 465]

The chapter about William Ellis, one of the earlier members of the London Missionary Society ( LMS), illustrates the editorial method and formatting employed throughout the volume. As with all the other chapters, this one carries a subtitle drawn from the narrative extract and representing a sense of the whole—in this case, the "unutterable practices" or aspects of indigenous Tahitian culture on which Ellis felt he could not elaborate. In a three-page introduction, distinguished from Ellis's text by its smaller font size, editor Vanessa Smith details Ellis's missionary work. In particular she notes his role as the LMS printer in the Pacific ("the literal bearer of the biblical Word to the Pacific islands"), and his reflections on the ways the printing press became involved in indigenous chiefly politics, as well as "the capacity for mnemonics and mimicry displayed by islanders eager to acquire knowledge of reading" (205 ). Much of Smith's introduction is devoted to Ellis's book, Polynesian Researches (first published in 1829 ), from which the chapter's extract is taken (at nearly ten pages long, this extract is representative of the usual length of such texts). Smith cites recent writings about the significance of this book, long recognized by Pacific scholars as an important example of missionary ethnography. For example, in Culture and Anomie: Ethnographic Imagination in the Nineteenth Century (1991 ), Christopher Herbert cited PolynesianResearches "as demonstrating an intricate awareness of the systematic interconnection of Tahitian material culture, social practices, and religious belief, which nonetheless produces an unresolved contest between rejection and identification, repulsion and desire, in describing the operation of these systems" (206 ). The particular passage from Polynesian Researches selected for Exploration & Exchange concerns the Arioi cult, a famous institution in Tahitian society. Here the typical tensions found in the writings of Ellis (and many other ethnographically inclined missionaries of that era, such as William Wyatt Gill) are highlighted. As Smith observes, in Ellis's criticisms of the Arioi, "the carefully maintained tension between the voices of missionary and ethnographer, destroyer and preserver of traditional Tahitian practices, breaks down" (207 ). This chapter, like all the other chapters, closes with a short bibliographic essay on further reading.

The editors' preface and introduction to the volume as a whole make clear that Exploration & Exchange is part of a noticeable global trend among scholars in fields such as literary studies, anthropology, art history, and parts of the historical profession: to reread older Euro-American literature by explorers, travelers, and early residents such as missionaries and beachcombers, in the light of contemporary literary theory. The editors intend the book as a collection of primary sources to provide teachers and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9464
Print ISSN
1043-898X
Pages
pp. 465-469
Launched on MUSE
2004-08-31
Open Access
No
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