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Changing Contexts, Shifting MeaningsTransformations of Cultural Traditions in Oceania$
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Elfriede Hermann

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780824833664

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824833664.001.0001

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Encountering Agency

Encountering Agency

Islanders, European Voyagers, and the Production of Race in Oceania

(p.74) Encountering Agency
Changing Contexts, Shifting Meanings

Bronwen Douglas

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter combines an ethnohistory of encounters between Pacific Islanders and European voyagers with the history of the unstable idea of “race” by correlating voyagers' racial terminology with their experience of particular indigenous people. It focuses on contacts, from the time of Duperrey's expedition of 1823, between French seamen and the Pacific Islanders of Tahiti and New Ireland. It considers local initiatives, actions, and demeanors—condensed as agency—as refracted through varied genres, modes, or media of travelers' representations. It interprets encounters situationally, not as a general clash of reified cultures but as ambiguous intersections of multiple indigenous and foreign agencies that were usually at cross-purposes but not necessarily opposed. It suggests that behavioral changes among the Pacific Islanders resulted from old codes and norms having to come to terms with new possibilities arising in a context of change.

Keywords:   Pacific Islanders, European voyagers, race, indigenous people, French seamen, Tahiti, New Ireland

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