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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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The Place of Wealth

The Place of Wealth

(p.49) 4 The Place of Wealth
Making Sense of Micronesia

Francis X. Hezel

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines the attitudes of Micronesians regarding wealth. It first discusses Micronesian generosity and the importance of food in island culture. It shows that food gifts are a gesture of support to those in distress, an assurance of solidarity when shared within the family, a sign of care and a token of love. On some islands, the lavish presentation of food and other resources to chiefs was a customary means of gaining prestige. On the other hand, the denial of food was also an important statement; refusing food or its surrogates to another could be understood as withholding love from that person. This chapter also considers how accumulated wealth is perceived in traditional Micronesia, particularly within the context of personal relationships. Finally, it discusses the concept of “Micronesian borrowing,” how Micronesians convert material goods into social capital as a way of investing in people, and how the shift to cash economy has created a dilemma as far as family is concerned.

Keywords:   wealth, Micronesia, generosity, food, love, Micronesians, personal relationships, Micronesian borrowing, social capital, cash economy

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