The Making of Global and Local Modernities in Melanesia: Humiliation, Transformation and the Nature of Cultural Change, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Making of Global and Local Modernities in Melanesia

Humiliation, Transformation and the Nature of Cultural Change, 1st Edition

By Holly Wardlow

Edited by Joel Robbins


248 pages

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Authored by well-established and respected scholars, this work examines the kinds of efforts that have been made to adopt Western modernity in Melanesia and explores the reasons for their varied outcomes. The contributors take the work of Professor Marshall Sahlins as a starting point, assessing his theories of cultural change and of the relationship between cultural intensification and globalizing forces. They acknowledge the importance of Sahlins' ideas, while refining, extending, modifying and critiquing them in light of their own first hand knowledge of Pacific island societies. Also presenting one of Sahlins' less widely available original essays for reference, this book is an exciting contribution to serious anthropological engagement with Papua New Guinea.


’This is a unique collection that poses truly exciting questions concerning the nature of Western global dominance and local transformation. Its point of departure is Marshall Sahlins’ less known but pivotal article The economics of develop-man in the Pacific (reprinted here) in which the issue of social change as a relation between particular societies and the larger development� centered modern world is explored in depth. The power of culture in its assimilation of the foreign, contrasted with the phenomenon of cultural humiliation, all in relation to social transformation, are discussed by a number of well known specialists in Melanesia taking their point of departure in Sahlins’ essay. This is the kind of book one hopes to see but rarely encounters. A landmark contribution to Pacific anthropology and to the understanding of historical process.’ Jonathan Friedman, EHESS (GTMS), France and Lund University, Sweden ’…will be of special interest for those whose area is Melanesia but it also offers material to stimulate a more general discussion about transformation and how it occurs according to different valuations in different societies.’ ’In this important collection of essays, Robbins and Wardlow bring together 12 influential scholars working in Melanesia to engage with Marshall Sahlins’ project of theorizing cultural change…Sahlins has not fully explored the specific tools causing humiliation. One of the great benefits of this collection is that the authors have attended to this gap, providing varied and nuanced ethnographic examples of the ways in which humiliation can work in contemporary Melanesia…this collection is a must for students and scholars of contemporary Melanesia. The theoretical concepts addressed in this work will prove stimulating to all those concerned with understanding processes of cultural change…this book provides valuable insights into the symptoms and processes of modernity engendered through emotions. R

Table of Contents

Contents: Series editor's preface; Introduction - humiliation and transformation: Marshall Sahlins and the study of cultural change in Melanesia, Joel Robbins; The economics of develop-man in the Pacific, Marshall Sahlins; The humiliations of sin: Christianity and the modernization of the subject among the Urapmin, Joel Robbins; Transformations of desire: envy and resentment among the Huli of Papua New Guinea, Holly Wardlow; 'We Are Not Straight': Bumbita Arapesh strategies for self-reflection in the race of Western superiority, Septhen C. Leavitt; Sepik river selves in a changing modernity: from Sahlins to psychodynamics, Eric Kline Silverman; ’We Are All "Les" Men’: sorrow and modernism in Melanesia, or humor in Paradise, Douglas Dalton; Moral and practical frameworks for the self in conditions of social change, Lisette Josephides; The death of Moka and polygamy in post-colonial Mount Hagen, Highlands, Papua New Guinea, Pamela J. Stewart and Andrew Strathern; On the life and times of the Ipili imagination, Aletta Biersack; On humiliation and class in contemporary Papua New Guinea, Frederick Errington and Deborah Gewertz; Turning to violence: hazarding intent in central New Ireland, Karen Sykes; Ancestral vigilance and the corrective conscience in Kwaio: Kastom as culture in a Melanesian society, David Akin; Afterword: frustrating modernity in Melanesia, Robert J. Foster; Index.

About the Author/Editor

Joel Robbins is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, San Diego, USA. Holly Wardlow is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto, Canada.

About the Series

Anthropology and Cultural History in Asia and the Indo-Pacific

This series offers a comprehensive view of Asian and Indo-Pacific anthropology and cultural history. It carries studies from China, Japan, South-East Asia, South Asia, and the entire Pacific region, including Australia and New Zealand. Focusing mainly on detailed ethnographic studies, the series further incorporates pressing thematic work on issues of cross-regional impact, gender and globalization, precarity, refugees, and asylum-seekers, and alternative medical and wellness-seeking practices. The series aims to link anthropological theory with history and religious studies, with discussions of ritual, politics, religious change, and economics. Studies of adaptation and conflict in small-scale situations enmeshed in wider scale processes of transformation form a particular thematic focus. The series aims to reach a core audience of specialists in Asian and Pacific studies, but also to be accessible and valuable to a broader multidisciplinary readership.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General