Tag Archives: Martha C. Ward

GREAT ANTHROPOLOGICAL READS ABOUT PACIFIC ISLANDS (PART 1)

‘Coming of Age in Samoa: A Psychological Study of Primitive Youth for Western Civilisation’ by Margaret Mead

This widely recognized book is a fieldwork classic. It details Margaret Mead’s journey to the South Pacific, where she had a chance to study the lives of teenage Samoan girls in the early 1920s.

Focusing on everything from education to sexuality, the author not only described one of the most fascinating Polynesian cultures, but also compared it to its American counterpart. After so many years, it’s still a brilliant read – interesting, well-written, insightful.

‘Nest in the Wind: Adventures in Anthropology on a Tropical Island’ by Martha C. Ward

Martha C. Ward first came to the island of Pohnpei in the 1970s. That little sojourn resulted in her marvelous anthropological study of the local people and their folkways. 30 years later she decided to return to the FSM to discover what had changed since her initial visit.

In this second edition of her original work the author unravels the peculiarities of life in the tropics, putting emphasis on the evolution of Micronesian culture. An absolute must-read!

‘Becoming Tongan: An Ethnography of Childhood’ by Helen Morton

Helen Morton’s book is a wonderful analysis of childhood in Tonga, in which she delineates all the processes associated with this crucial period in people’s lives.

Being married to a Tongan and having lived in the kingdom for over three years, she demonstrates a high level of competence in understanding the South Pacific ‘way of being’. In her study she traces the patterns of children’s socialization – from being ‘vale’ to becoming ‘poto’ – with great care and attention to detail. This makes her account an immensely engaging read.

‘Literacy, Emotion, and Authority: Reading and Writing on a Polynesian Atoll’ by Niko Besnier

This is a very interesting publication as it investigates literacy practices on the Nukulaelae atoll in Tuvalu.

Niko Besnier, Professor of Cultural Anthropology, visited the Ellice Islands numerous times between 1979 – 1985. During those sojourns he became interested in everyday forms of literacy and began to examine the close relationship between language, culture, and personhood. The result? A rather academic but certainly fascinating book.

‘Gender Rituals: Female Initiation in Melanesia’ by Nancy Lutkehaus, Paul Roscoe

Initiation rituals constitute an important subject matter in anthropological studies, and yet there aren’t many titles that cover this topic in regard to Pacific communities. Edited by Nancy Lutkehaus and Paul Roscoe book is one of such publications.

Throughout the volume, the authors analyse practices of eight different cultural groups of Papua New Guinea (mainly the Sepik region), explaining how they influence and shape the local societies. Although focused on women, the book will definitely be of great interest for both genders.

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BEST BOOKS ABOUT FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA

‘Making sense of Micronesia: The Logic of Pacific Island Culture’ by Francis X. Hezel

This is a fantastic book that should be read by every single person planning to visit the FSM. Written by Francis X. Hezel, a Jesuit priest who has lived and worked in this Pacific country since 1963, it provides all the necessary information regarding Micronesian culture, letting readers understand the often unfamiliar island ways.

It should be noted that the author doesn’t focus on the FSM only, but on the vast area from Palau to the Marshalls. Drawing on his first-hand experience, he describes the peculiarities of each nation’s character, explains attitudes and real-life behaviours of the inhabitants, analyzes the patterns of values and sets of beliefs. The result? Educational, enlightening, very entertaining publication that is a true joy to read.

‘Nest in the Wind: Adventures in Anthropology on a Tropical Island’ by Martha C. Ward

Martha C. Ward’s book is a must-read for people who are interested not only in Micronesia but also in anthropology, ethnography, or cross-cultural communication. It is a comprehensive study of customs, traditions, habits, practices, beliefs, behaviours, and attitudes of the Pohnpeian (yes, the author devotes her attention to the Pohnpei State) people.

Although unbelievably detailed and insightful, this is not an academic publication. It’s actually an engaging account of one woman’s discoveries in the tropical paradise, written in a pleasant and very appealing way.

‘Micronesian Blues’ by Bryan Vila, Cynthia Morris

Bryan Vila’s memoir that chronicles his adventures in Micronesia is undoubtedly one of the best books ever written about this beautiful part of our globe. Vila, together with Cynthia Morris, managed to create a compelling narrative that wonderfully explains the realities of life not only in the FSM but also in the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, the Marshalls, and Guam.

Delivered in a light-hearted and humorous manner, the story provides the most interesting, little-known facts about Micronesian cultures – Chuukese, Kosraean, Yapese, and Pohnpeian among others. By no means is this an anthropological study, nevertheless one may learn quite a lot from Bryan’s experiences (good and bad) in a foreign land. Thoroughly engaging from start to finish!

‘Nowhere Slow: Eleven Years in Micronesia’ by Jonathan Gourlay

Jonathan Gourlay is an outstandingly talented writer, so it comes as no surprise that this little collection of essays about his sojourn in Pohnpei is such an enjoyable read. It’s hilariously funny, extremely revealing, and unusually honest.

Micronesia was Jonathan’s home for 11 years – during that time he was neither a local nor a complete stranger. As he presents his point of view, he shows the Pohnpeian way of life from a new, very interesting perspective, making readers realize how difficult it is to adapt to an entirely different culture. You can’t help but marvel at Jonathan’s writings, and his book is well worth your time and attention.

‘Up Pohnpei: Leading the ultimate football underdogs to glory’ by Paul Watson

Can a book about football serve as a source of knowledge about Micronesian culture? Well, Paul Watson proves it can. His memoir about coaching the Pohnpei’s national soccer team is an amusing, inspirational read that unravels a few things you may not have known about the islands and their inhabitants.

Of course, with its strong focus on sport, the title may be a little disappointing for those who expect to find here an abundance of information regarding the FSM. However, despite this (minor) drawback, it’s still a book that sheds some light on the country that receives very limited coverage in literature.