In Oceania: Visions, Artifacts, Histories

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In this collection of essays, Nicholas Thomas, a leading theorist of historical anthropology, explores the historicization of cultural encounters in the region referred to as Oceania. Basing his claims on wide-ranging historical and ethnographic research and building on his celebrated studies of exchange and colonialism in the Pacific, Thomas describes how outsiders and islanders alike have constructed indigenous cultures over the last two hundred years.
In Oceania documents and analyzes the "rhetorical artifacts" of explorers, missionaries, fiction and travel writers, and the people of the Pacific themselves to illustrate how Oceanic identities have been represented over time. Not content with conventional methods of anthropology or history, Thomas draws on postcolonial theory and literary analysis in extraordinarily wide-ranging analyses of texts, visual images, and historical processes. He demonstrates how cultures of the Pacific Islands have dealt with colonialist ventures, modernity, and the debate about the recuperation of histories and traditions. The picture Thomas paints of Oceania, however, is not one of a group of societies stripped of meaning, but one that shows how the interactions between indigenous cultures and European influences have created entirely new identities.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Nicholas Thomas can always be depended upon for lucid arguments that range over an impressive array of materials and engage current debates within and across the fields of anthropology, history, and cultural studies."—Robert J. Foster, University of Rochester

"Thomas makes a statement of major importance on the deep political and intellectual complexities involved in visually and verbally constructing histories and cultures. . . . Sophisticated, original, and compelling."—Don Brenneis, University of California at Santa Cruz

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822319986
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 10/28/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.96 (w) x 9.18 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

Nicholas Thomas is Professor of Anthropology, Goldsmiths College, University of London. He is the author of numerous books, including Entangled Objects: Exchange, Material Culture, and Colonialism in the Pacific.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures
Introduction: Tupaia's Map 1
Pt. I Visions of History and Anthropology
1 Partial Texts: Representation, Colonialism, and Agency in Pacific History 23
2 Alejandro Mayta in Fiji: Narratives about Millenarianism, Colonialism, Postcolonial Politics, and Custom 50
Pt. II Colonial Images and Narratives
3 Liberty and Licence: New Zealand Societies in Cook Voyage Anthropology 71
4 Objects of Knowledge: Oceanic Artifacts in European Engravings 93
5 Melanesians and Polynesians: Ethnic Typifications inside and outside Anthropology 133
6 Fear and Loathing in the South Pacific: Colonial and Postcolonial History in Popular Fiction 156
Pt. III Beyond the Invention of Tradition
7 Tin and Thatch 171
8 The Inversion of Tradition 186
9 Contrasts: Marriage and Identity in Western Fiji 210
Epilogue: From Contrast to Relation 227
App The Bula Tale Movement 231
Notes 235
References 245
Index 261
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