Identity through History: Living Stories in a Solomon Islands Society

Overview

For people who live in small communities transformed by powerful outside forces, narrative accounts of culture contact and change create images of collective identity through the idiom of shared history. How may we understand the processes that make such accounts compelling for those who tell them? Why do some narratives acquire a kind of mythic status as they are told and retold in a variety of contexts and genres? Identity Through History attempts to explain how identity formation developed among the people of ...
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Overview

For people who live in small communities transformed by powerful outside forces, narrative accounts of culture contact and change create images of collective identity through the idiom of shared history. How may we understand the processes that make such accounts compelling for those who tell them? Why do some narratives acquire a kind of mythic status as they are told and retold in a variety of contexts and genres? Identity Through History attempts to explain how identity formation developed among the people of Santa Isabel in the Solomon Islands who were victimized by raiding headhunters in the nineteenth century, and then embraced Christianity around the turn of the century. Making innovative use of work in psychological and historical anthropology, Geoffrey White shows how these significant events were crucial to the community's view of itself in shifting social and political circumstances.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Identity Through History is a brilliant ethnographic study of the construction of cultural identity in the Maringe subregion of Santa Isabel, Solomon Islands, where Geoffrey White carried out extensive fieldwork from 1974 to 1988....clearly written and carefully organized." Ethnohistory

"With this fascinating, beautifully written study of Santa Isabel society and history, Geoffrey White presents a sympathetic and penetrating analysis of the psycho-historical processes underlying neo-traditionalism....I found myself equally impressed by the immediacy of history in Santa Isabel villagers' consciousness as by White's gift as a storyteller in his own right.... White's important book deserves careful study by Pacific historians and anthropologists." John Barker, Pacific Affairs

"Meticulously researched and eloquently written...an elegant synthesis, a rigorously crafted history, and a superb ethnography." Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"A richly detailed, brilliantly conceived, and beautifully executed book, Identity through History is a quiet tour de force...The book is a pleasure to read and think with." American Anthropologist

"Geoffrey White's analysis of the manner in which the Cheke Holo of Santa Isabel in the Solomon Islands use their historical narratives to construct their history is a thoroughly intelligent book...wonderfully written: one leaves it wishing all groups had ethnographers as lucid and as concerned with getting things right." Contemporary Pacific

"White's book is a rich and nuanced contribution to the literature on perceptions of the past and colonial change in the Pacific." Man

"White demonstrates with great force, no understanding of identity in the Solomon is possible without a detailed description of local histories, that is, of the processes whereby people produce a significant account of the events of conversion and colonisation." Pascal Boyer, King's College

"White's distinctive contribution is to connect his analysis of the social production of meaning with consideration of the person .... White's book is a sophisticated and pathbreaking addition to work in history and identity." Lin Poyer, University of Cincinnati

"...a valuable addition to the historical anthropology of the Pacific." Margaret Jolly, Pacific Studies

"Identity through History provides a solid description of the ways in which the local production of history on Santa Isabel is also a production of identity." Pascal Boyer, Pacific Studies

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Product Details

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments; 1. Introduction; Part I. Orientations: 2. First encounters; 3. Portraits of the past; 4. Chiefs, persons and power; Part II. Transformations: 5. Crisis and Christianity; 6. Conversions and consolidation; Part III. Narrations: 7. Becoming Christian: playing with history; 8. Missionary encounters: narrating the self; Part IV. Revitalization: 9. Collisions and convergence; 10. The paramount chief: rites of renewal; 11. Conclusion; Notes; References.
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