restricted access Preface
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

vii Preface This short book is written for those interested in but unfamiliar with Micronesian island societies and how they work. At one time that would have meant expatriate teachers, physicians, and lawyers who have contracted to work in the islands, as well as volunteers and church personnel assigned there. Today, when tens of thousands of Micronesians have emigrated to the United States, the audience may be larger. It might include the American teachers, health providers, social workers, and others who find themselves puzzled by the island people who make up part of their clientele. Where once westerners had to visit the western Pacific to encounter these islanders and their ways, now the cultural exchanges are taking place on American turf in hundreds of communities, large and small. The purpose of this book is to lay out some of the basic principles in Micronesian culture, at least as I have come to understand it. By this I don’t mean the exotic externals of the culture—the outward trappings of island culture that so often capture the attention of outsiders. This book is not about oceangoing canoes or navigational techniques; it’s not about island dances or feasts, lavalavas or loincloths, or curious ceremonies related to birth or death. It is about the pattern of values and attitudes that underlie the externals of island culture—a pattern that makes good sense, providing we focus on island realities and needs. Culture is not just a willy-nilly collection of quaint practices , although it may often appear that way to outsiders. There is a logic to island culture and that logic is what I wish to represent here. In the course of mapping the basic features of this pattern, or logic, I’ll be highlighting some of the points of conflict between traditional island culture and the demands of the modern world. We might call viii Preface these points of conflict the “dilemmas of development.” In many cases, as I will try to show, the very features of island culture that were highly functional in the past, some of them remaining so even today, seem to inhibit what we now consider “development.” Changes may have to be made, as they must in any culture, but we outsiders should at least understand some of the broader context of island culture before we begin leading the charge for social change according to our own formulas. My hope is that in this book I might be able to pass on a bit of what I’ve learned over the course of some forty years to others who are trying to make some sense of Micronesian ways. I approach this task as a lifelong learner, one who first stumbled upon the islands in 1963 when, as a young Jesuit, I was assigned to teach at Xavier High School in Chuuk. I may have begun my work back then with a grand sense of what I hoped to accomplish, but it didn’t take me long to appreciate the depth of my ignorance about the people for whom I was working. There followed a long schooling in the culture and ways of the islands—a happy but humbling experience that continues even up to the present. What I have to share in this book, then, is what I’ve managed to pick up over the course of my long journey. This book has many limitations. It makes no claim to being academic and is without the scholarly notes and bibliography that usually confer authority on a published work. The sources are my own experiences in the islands and what I have managed to digest from the experiences of others, whether published or not. The composite view of the culture presented here, although it owes more than I can acknowledge to the work of others, is always filtered through my own experience in the islands. Generalizations abound, simply asserted, with the finer distinctions ignored. The cultural distinctiveness of the many different island groups is deliberately blurred so as to retain focus on general cultural patterns throughout the area. The result is something of a cultural puree, a blend of the several cultures within the area. Likewise, the distinction between past and present has been largely glossed over here so that island cultures seem to be frozen in their “traditional” state. (Anyone who wishes a more detailed review of the cultural change that has occurred in the last three generations may consult my previous book, The New Shape of...


pdf