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4 RESEARCHING AS A COMMUNAL CONCEPT AND PRACTICE VAHEFONUA (RESEARCH SPACE AND PEOPLE) IN MARCH 2004, my wife and I arrived on Maui. We found an apartment in Lahaina and we lived there during the duration of my research. In our apartment complex, there were at least five Tongan families. Lahaina was an ideal place for my ethnography (research) because most of the Tongans on Maui resided in Lahaina. It was the central place for Tongan cultural events on Maui (see figure 9). This ethnography was conducted from March 2004 to August 2005. My wife and I attended the local Tongan ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS congregation) in Lahaina. Many of the data for this ethnography came from my involvement with members of this congregation. On Maui,most Tongans belonged to a kāingalotu (church kin or congregation). For Tongans, it is a challenge to work apart from one’s church kin.This is why many of my ethnographic experiences—especially funerals—took place within the context of my LDS kāingalotu. For my ethnographic research, I held numerous extended conversations (talatalanoa) with more than forty individuals. All of my research participants were adults—ranging in age from twenty-five to sixty-five—and many of them belonged to the LDS church.My wife and I developed a close relationship with three Tongan families.These three families provided me with in-depth knowledge and analyses of the lives of Tongans on Maui. Researching as a Communal Concept and Practice  49 As part of this ethnography, I frequently attended and participated in Tongan funerals, birthday celebrations, fundraising events, christenings (baptisms), prayer vigils, eating gatherings, and wedding festivities. In addition, I actively participated in many Tongan church activities,including Sunday services,ceremonies , choir practices, choir performances, and recreational activities. My ethnography is rooted in indigenous Tongan cultural practices. In the next sections,I will conceptualize and explain my indigenous research approach. In addition, I will use experiences from my personal life and information from my involvement with Tongans on Maui to illustrate my indigenous communal approach to research. HOHOKO (CONNECTING GENEALOGIES) While growing up, both in Tonga and in the United States, I learned that genealogy was crucial for navigating the Tongan social seascape. As a child, my FIGURE 9. A Tongan wedding in Lahaina, Maui. 50 chapter 4 grandparents and parents encouraged me to meet and get to know my kāinga (relatives).1 I was not always excited about meeting them. However, over the years, the process of meeting my relatives was crucial to learning my Tongan genealogy. It created opportunities to ask my parents and grandparents about my family’s genealogical links to other Tongans. My maternal grandfather, Tonga Mālohifo‘ou, had an impressive knowledge of genealogy. As a child, I was amazed at his ability to recall vast amounts of Tongan genealogy. Several days before my first funeral speech, my grandfather , who was ninety years old, recited several generations of our genealogy from memory. I wrote it all down on a piece of paper. For several days, I tried to commit six generations of my genealogy to memory. I had to remember not only my genealogical line but also my genealogical connections to the deceased and his extended family. At the funeral, I delivered my speech and recited six generations from memory. It was a great accomplishment for me. After I left home for college, I came to see the significance of genealogy in my work with Tongans. In my first year as an anthropology graduate student, I worked as a research assistant in a study of Tongan and Samoan adolescents in Seattle, Washington (McGrath and Ka‘ili 2001). Again, this research experience confirmed the crucial role of genealogy in Tongan interactions. During the research process, it became apparent to me that genealogy was key to creating social connections and building rapport. For me, research encounters with Tongans involved recounting genealogies and tracing possible genealogical ties. Although I scheduled my research interviews for an hour, most of my interviews with Tongans lasted an average of two to three hours. It took an hour to conduct the research interviews and another hour or two to trace genealogies, talk about Tonga, and eat Tongan food (Ka‘ili 2005, 96). Because of my experiences with genealogy, sharing genealogy became an integral part of my research approach.Sharing genealogy not only provided the basis for establishing relationships but also supported a communal approach to...


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