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Making Sense of MicronesiaThe Logic of Pacific Island Culture$
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Francis X. S.J. Hezel

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780824836610

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824836610.001.0001

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Forging an Identity

Forging an Identity

(p.24) 2 Forging an Identity
Making Sense of Micronesia

Francis X. Hezel

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter discusses the importance of social identity to a Micronesian islander. The Micronesian is first and foremost a member of a social group, and group maintenance has always been preferred to individual achievement. At the heart of the identity of an islander is the family, the fundamental unit of which is the lineage. The lineage is strongly oriented toward the women of the group and so is called a matrilineage. This chapter considers the importance of family to a Micronesian islander's social identity and how it is intertwined with the phenomenon of suicide in the islands. It also looks at land as a symbol of collective identity and as a marker of the extended family. Finally, it examines how the cash economy, along with the nuclear family that it has helped spawn, has eroded some of the symbolic importance of land among islanders today.

Keywords:   social identity, Micronesia, family, lineage, matrilineage, suicide, land, extended family, cash economy, nuclear family

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