Changing Contexts, Shifting MeaningsTransformations of Cultural Traditions in Oceania

Changing Contexts, Shifting MeaningsTransformations of Cultural Traditions in Oceania

Elfriede Hermann

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780824833664

Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press


This book sheds new light on processes of cultural transformation at work in Oceania and analyzes them as products of interrelationships between culturally created meanings and specific contexts. It examines these interrelationships for insight into how cultural traditions are shaped on an ongoing basis. Following a critique of how tradition has been viewed in terms of dichotomies like authenticity vs. inauthenticity, the book takes a novel perspective in which tradition figures as context-bound articulation. This makes it possible to view cultural traditions as resulting from interactions between people and the ambient contexts. Such interactions are analyzed from the past down to the Oceanian present—with indigenous agency being highlighted. The work focuses first on early encounters, initially between Pacific Islanders themselves and later with the European navigators of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, to clarify how meaningful actions and contexts interrelated in the past. The present-day memories of Pacific Islanders are examined to ask how such memories represent encounters that occurred long ago and how they influenced the social, political, economic, and religious changes that ensued. Next, the book addresses ongoing social and structural interactions that social actors enlist to shape their traditions within the context of globalization and then the repercussions that these intersections and intercultural exchanges of discourses and practices are having on active identity formation as practiced by Pacific Islanders.

Table of Contents


Elfriede Hermann

Changing Contexts, Shifting Meanings

Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin

Part I Early Encounters

Beyond the Beach?

Margaret Jolly

Encountering Agency

Bronwen Douglas

Aphrodite’s Island

Anne Salmond

Inventing Polynesia

Serge Tcherkézoff

Part II Memories

Part III Global and (Trans)local Processes

Moving onto the Stage

Miriam Kahn

Shanti and Mana

John D. Kelly

Justice in Wallis-‘Uvea

Françoise Douaire-Marsaudon

Part IV Cultural Exchange and Identities

Cultural Change in Oceania

Peter Hempenstall


Aletta Biersack