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Anahulu: the Anthropology of History in the Kingdom of Hawaii.

In the decades after Cook's first landfall, the history of the world began to irrupt into a remote river valley in northwest Oahu, Hawaii. Anahulu: the anthropology of history in the Kingdom of Hawaii (PATRICK V. KIRCH & MARSHALL SAHLINS. 1 Historical ethnography: x+243 pages, 41 figures, 22 tables; 2 The archaeology of history: xiv+201 pages, 113 figures, 22 tables. 1992. Chicago (IL): University of Chicago Press; ISBN 0-226-73363-7 & 0-226-73364-5 hardback |pounds~39.95 & $57.50 each) is a marvellous exploration of how Polynesian society met the world system, and how through reaction and reponse it succeeded in historicizing the process of incorporation itself. The focus is on the time of Kamehameha's unified kingdom and its aftermath, and of those familiar outriders of western expansion, the fur and sandalwood traders, the whalers and the missionaries. But as one might expect from such authors, this book is about much more than the local analysis of how change in one Hawaiian valley refracted wider processes. It is a wholescale, eminently successful attempt by two leading practitioners of adjacent but traditionally distinct disciplines to combine their subjects within what they regard as the 'privileged intellectual space' of an archivally and archaeologically documented period. SAHLINS' volume on historical ethnography, based on early reports and the long-term study of land records, is brought together with KIRCH's survey and excavations of pre- and post-contact indigenous rural landscapes and settlement in Anahulu, to create a refreshingly broad-ranging 'anthropology of history'. Particularly exciting is the fact that although this is a coherent and unified work, the reader can also trace the separate longer-term ideas of both scholars. Thus SAHLINS' emphasis on the uniqueness of the history created out of this clash of worlds has roots in his previous masterful unravelling of the cultural and cosmological complexities that led to the apotheosis and death of Cook at Hawaiian hands. Likewise, KIRCH uses the time-depth of archaeology to demonstrate patterns of change that deny the validity of anything so cosy as a stable, studiable ethnographic present. Their finding is that post-contact exploitation of the islands worked through the medium of Hawaii's own social and cultural structures, and created specifically Hawaiian results. True enough in all probability, but this picture itself already bears the nostalgic patina of age: in 1982 the upper half of the Anahulu valley had been turned over to the US army for jungle warfare training.
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Author:Broodbank, Cyprian
Publication:Antiquity
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
Words:399
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