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Nature, Culture, and History

Nature, Culture, and History: The "Knowing" of Oceania

K. R. Howe
Copyright Date: 2000
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  • Book Info
    Nature, Culture, and History
    Book Description:

    "An intriguing and provocative work of synthesis, analysis and invitation" --Journal of the Polynesian Society, June 2003 "This is a remarkable book. It could only have been written by a unique individual like K. R. Howe who is both a highly creative and at the same time capable of drawing upon a long professional career of serious research and reflection about Pacific history and historiography. He helpfully places Oceania in a broad global and intellectual context and successfully explores the meeting of two perceived entities--the West and Pacific peoples. He does this in such a way as to incorporate such widely diverse topics as notions of paradise, islands as psychological spaces, human destiny, technology, 'knowing,' colonialism, racism, gender, nuclear testing, and indigenous peoples. Nature, Culture, and History represents the combination of imaginative insight, personal experience, scholarly depth, and philosophical wisdom at its best." --Paul Gordon Lauren, Regents Professor, University of Montana

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6372-2
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    How do we know what we see? Why do we know what we know? These questions are as old as the human species. In the postmodern/postcolonial world in which historians and other scholars now claim to operate, a critical (though not original) assumption is that the external world, both past and present, is necessarily viewed and interpreted through cultural lenses. This is not to suggest, as some extremists do, that the external world does not exist, just that theinterpretationof “reality” is likely to be a product of the observer’s cultural positioning, whose depiction of it will be in...

  5. Chapter 1 Nature as Culture
    (pp. 5-30)

    It seemed like the worst of times. I had too much teaching, too many committees, and it was mid-winter in New Zealand’s Palmerston North—miserable, wet, with incessant gales. Hail was shattering onto my office windows at the exact moment that I received a postcard from my colleague Robert Hoskins, who was holidaying in Tonga. The card was a picture of Fafa Island resort. Within a few weeks, and at great expense, I was with my family for a week’s holiday on Fafa. There is nothing remarkable about this story, you might think, other than my impulsive and uncharacteristic splashing...

  6. Chapter 2 Culture as Nature
    (pp. 31-57)

    The assumed distinctions between the natural/external and the human/social spheres and the relative influences of nature and culture have long been pondered. Clarence Glacken’s classic study,Traces on the Rhodian Shore: Nature and Culture in Western Thought from Ancient Times to the End of the Eighteenth Century,argued that over this long period no single theory of nature and culture gained ascendancy. Rather a few key ideas flowed in and out of currency, in particular the notion that “the planet was designed for man alone,” the idea that “airs, waters and places” influenced cultural characteristics, and, in the latter part...

  7. Chapter 3 History as Culture
    (pp. 58-86)

    The previous chapters have considered how notions of both nature and culture, with reference to Oceania, have variously been constructed and reconstructed in Western discourse. Throughout these processes I have emphasized the complex relationship between theory/expectation and observation/experience. I have suggested that, more often than not, theory/expectation tends to carry far more weight than observation/experience, though there seem to be critical moments when observation and experience can question and modify broad explanatory paradigms. In particular I argued that the changing relative priorities given to nature and culture as explanatory paradigms have, over the past two hundred years, fundamentally altered aspects...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 87-102)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 103-116)
  10. Index
    (pp. 117-120)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 121-121)