Conventional treatments of first contact between Europeans and non-Europeans are framed within a model of either conflict or consensus. Modern Pacific historiography conventionally avoids both models and presents contact in terms of the Pacific Islanders' pragmatic rationality. This approach makes little attempt to present the European side of the encounter. Attempts by Marshall Sahlins to reconfigure indigenous behavior have not so far been incorporated into wider Pacific historiography because it appears to conflict with the established paradigm of "practical rationality." A synthesis of these approaches is possible if behavior by both Europeans and Polynesians is recognized as abnormal. The example of Tahiti suggests that a medial culture, a "culture of culture contact," came into existence spontaneously to mediate contact between two peoples who had no prior norms for engaging with one another.


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pp. 63-86
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