Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Home in the Islands

Home in the Islands: Housing and Social Change in the Pacific

Jan Rensel
Margaret Rodman
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Home in the Islands
    Book Description:

    Ordinary houses have extraordinary stories to tell. For more than a century, anthropologists have been recording these sagas in an attempt to uncover humanity's relationship with the common dwelling. Fundamental to the interaction of humans and housing is the way people shape their living spaces, even redefining their purposes and meanings; their houses, in turn, influence how people live their lives and perpetuate the cultural structures that produced a given form of shelter. The stories draw attention to colonial and missionary agendas, local and global economies, environmental disasters, cultural identities, social connections, and family continuity, as well as personal choices. And, as the chapter on homeless Hawaiians shows, even those without houses have stories to tell. Anthropologists, architects, environmental designers, geographers, and historians will welcome this diverse volume on a neglected yet important aspect of change in the lives of Pacific Islanders.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6286-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Prologue
    (pp. 1-6)
    Margaret Rodman

    The houses that caught my eye were the ones that moved.¹ They were almost where I remembered them, where as an anthropologist I had mapped them—but not quite. The village in the hills of Ambae, Vanuatu, looked the same as I remembered it from an earlier field trip. In our own bamboo house nothing seemed to have changed. A Canadian flag and fly-specked photos from a Minolta calendar still decorated the walls. My husband, Bill, who had not smoked a pipe in the three years since we had left Ambae, found a handful of pipe cleaners in a jar...

  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 7-26)
    Jan Rensel

    Ordinary houses have extraordinary stories to tell. Grand, monumental, and ceremonial structures frequently inspire awe and analysis, but mundane, domestic arenas we most often take for granted. It is true that unusual events—such as having to move, coping with damage or loss, or embarking on fieldwork in a strange place—will focus our attention on housing for a time. But as the crisis passes, housing generally recedes to the background of our consciousness. As a result, much of what we could learn from it “goes without saying” (Carsten and Hugh-Jones 1995, 3–4; see also Bloch 1992).

    Yet anthropological...

  5. 2 From Thatch to Cement: Social Implications of Housing Change on Rotuma
    (pp. 27-54)
    Jan Rensel

    For centuries, houses—their construction, maintenance, use, and even their location—have been central to the social reproduction of kin groups (kạinaga) on the island of Rotuma.¹

    Kạinagamembership is a matter of both blood relationship and active demonstrations of commitment. Blood ties are reckoned on the basis of a common ancestor who lived on or had claim in a named house site. And commitment to a kin group is demonstrated by giving materials and labor to building, maintaining, and furnishing a house, as well as by being a part of activities that take place in and around it. By...

  6. 3 Samo House Styles and Social Change
    (pp. 55-78)
    R. Daniel Shaw

    In August 1963, Patrol Officer I.M. Douglas grew weary of searching out isolated longhouses in the dense rain forest of the Strickland Plain in the Western Province of what is now Papua New Guinea (see map; figure 3.1). To assuage his frustration he decided to establish administrative rest house sites that could easily be found. The people living in longhouses in the vicinity of these sites would, he reasoned, eventually grow weary of answering the government’s call and turn these sites into villages (see map; figure 3.2). He recorded his long range intentions in his patrol report:

    In due course...

  7. 4 Changes in Housing and Residence Patterns in Galilo, New Britain, 1918–1992
    (pp. 79-102)
    Ann Chowning

    The Lakalai village of Galilo in New Britain (Papua New Guinea) has undergone changes in housing and residence patterns that can be documented from the period when strong European influence began immediately after World War I. In addition to the presence of government and mission, economic changes combined with an increasing variety of new attitudes and values to allow more individual discretion in housing. Along with greater diversity in living arrangements, official policies limited some of the choices that had previously existed. The present built environment and spatial arrangements in Galilo emphasize village unity, encouraged by both government and church,...

  8. 5 Transformations in the Domestic Landscape of New Zealand Homesteads
    (pp. 103-131)
    Michèle D. Dominy

    At the social and symbolic center of high country pastoralism in New Zealand’s South Island lies the station homestead, the farm family’s dwelling, and its encompassing domestic landscape—the driveway, cultivated garden grounds, farm buildings and yards, and tree plantings—that comprise the built environment of the Canterbury high country.¹ Beyond lie the station paddocks sheltered by land forms of high relief and planted shelter belts, and even farther removed lie larger higher altitude blocks extending out to the remote and rugged back country. While station buildings, gardens, and cultivated paddocks usually occupy freehold land, most of the holdings comprising...

  9. 6 Private Houses, Public Sharing: Pollapese Migrants Coping with Change
    (pp. 132-150)
    Juliana Flinn

    Although the people of Pollap in the outer islands of Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia pride themselves on practicing certain customs and keeping some valued traditions intact, one area that is rapidly changing nonetheless is housing. The changes are most dramatic in a migrant settlement on the main island of Weno, a place Pollapese perceive as an essential part of the Pollap community and where they consciously try to maintain customs from home. But housing is changing on the home atoll as well, even though access to building materials and consumer goods is more restricted there than in...

  10. 7 A Samoan Solution to the Limitations of Urban Housing in New Zealand
    (pp. 151-174)
    Cluny Macpherson

    Samoan migrants in Auckland, New Zealand, face difficulties in finding suitable venues for various activities central to Samoan social and religious life. The problem arises from the fact that housing in Auckland was designed to meet needs of domestic groupings of the dominant ethnic group that differ in important respects from those of Pacific Islands migrants.Pākehā, or European, domestic groupings are typically smaller, nuclear family units with a generally stable composition that are only loosely affiliated with various kinship and community groupings (New Zealand Department of Statistics 1986, 1991).Pākehāhouseholds lead what has been described as a “privatized”...

  11. 8 From Houses without Walls to Vertical Villages: Samoan Housing Transformations
    (pp. 175-193)
    Robert Franco and Simeamativa Mageo Aga

    Since the early 1950s, large numbers of Western and American Samoans have been leaving their home villages and moving to and through Hawai‘i in search of improved socioeconomic opportunities. In this search they discover distinctly different housing structures and spaces, requiring substantial adaptation in patterns of social organization developed in village Samoa. As Samoans leave the public, open housing configuration of their home villages and move to the private, closed housing of urban Honolulu, they face growing challenges, particularly in areas of youth social control, appropriate parental discipline, and community policing. They also find it difficult to host visiting kinsmen...

  12. 9 (Not) In My Back Yard: Housing the Homeless in Hawai‘i
    (pp. 194-221)
    Judith Modell

    In the summer of 1991 I was doing fieldwork in Hawai‘i.¹ One night in July, I arranged to meet friends of mine in Waimānalo, a town about fifteen miles from downtown Honolulu (see map of O‘ahu, figure 9.1). There seemed to have been a misunderstanding, and when I arrived they were on their way to a town meeting called to discuss the problem of homelessness in the area. I went along, stayed through the three-hour meeting, and learned a good deal about community responses to housing people who have no homes.² The issues raised that night suggested links between my...

  13. 10 Conclusion
    (pp. 222-234)
    Margaret Rodman

    The conclusion to an edited collection seems an appropriate place to return to where we started for a moment of reflection. We began this book with an account of my encounter with changes in houses and social relationships on Ambae, an island in northern Vanuatu. Here I return to themes introduced by those “moving houses” that then are discussed in terms of the other chapters in this volume.

    We hope that readers who may not previously have given much thought to changes in Pacific housing will have a sense of knowing the place for the first time. The moving houses...

  14. References
    (pp. 235-248)
  15. Contributors
    (pp. 249-252)
  16. Index
    (pp. 253-264)