cultural revitalization



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Choose a topic that explores an issue of socio-cultural change in the Pacific from an anthropological perspective, generate a research question, and conduct library-based research as well as conduct an interview with one relevant community member. This research paper should be 7-8 pages long, double-spaced, and incorporate at least 7 academic references (peer-reviewed journal articles), incorporate at least 1 audiovisual material (e.g., an anthropological film), and draw from at least 1 interview.




Suggestions for topics (note: some of these are covered in our syllabus, but not all!)


· Cultural revival and resistance

· Militarism & Nuclear testing

· Colonization / Decolonization / Sovereignty

· Indigeneity

· Representations of culture / Cultural identity

· Climate change / Environment

· Gender

· Tourism

· Diaspora / Migration /

· Refugees and Human Rights Abuses

· Inter-ethnic conflict / Coups d’état

· Urbanization

· Alcoholism, Drug-use, Suicide and other Social Issues

· Resource Extraction

· Warrior Culture

· The practice of anthropology / Shifting forms of ethnography

· Other…


You need to choose a topic and then narrow down the focus. This involves 1) developing a research question and ultimately responding to that question by developing a thesis statement (“I argue that…..”).


Your research topic should also be specific to a particular Pacific Island community, e.g., Tonga or Samoa or Marshall Islands, etc… While you can include Hawaiʻi in a comparative manner, I would request that your research take you beyond the shores of Hawaiʻi to another, less-well known island community.


For example, if you were interested in “gender” you might discover the fa’afafine of Samoa, a third gender category in which young boys are raised as girls. Research questions could include “What is the traditional basis for the fa’afafine in Apia-centered tourism today?” or “To what extent are fa’afafine an integral part of Samoan culture today?” or How do Samoan fa’afafine adjust to life in Hawaii? Note that these questions have to do with “change in the Pacific” but you would need to do some basic research on the topic before you would be able to pose these questions.


You are to have in-depth discussions (talk stories or more formal interviews) with a Pacific Islander mentor/informant/consultant. He/she can be a family member, friend, or fellow student, so long as they are able to share expertise on the topic. Strive for 30 minutes of “talk story.” We have many Pacific Islander students at UHH, and I can assist in connecting you with a relevant Pacific Islander student or Pacific Islander community member.


Your final essay should incorporate these discussions plus relevant academic literature, as well as any relevant class readings and videos. All of these sources of knowledge need to be cited in the text and referenced in a bibliography.



The final research paper, which is due December 10, and the (asynchronous presentation should include the following:


i. Discuss your general topic and research question

ii. Outline your research methodology (e.g., interviewing, library research)

iii. Describe your topic using relevant literature and “talk story” sessions

iv. Outline the major themes that emerged

v. Discuss relevant findings


For the formal presentation, you will create a VoiceThread are are encouraged (but not required) to use graphics, images, handouts, visuals, Powerpoint, videos, or interview recordings to enhance your presentation, but the use of videos or interview quotes should be minimized to not take up too much time. 10-minute presentations. You will be assessed on your ability to communicate your ideas.




Mookini Library


Visit the “Oceania Libguide” through our Mookini Library:


Current Events


To get some ideas for your research topics, you can look at current events in the Pacific. Below are some websites containing links to various current events articles or local newspapers. These do not count as the required academic references, but you can include them as additional sources within your bibliography.


Pacific newspapers by country:

Also, the East-West Center provides a series of links:


There are many ethnographic films available through our Mookini Library, the “Ethnographic Video Online” database. You can use these to explore ideas. These do not count as the required academic references, but you can include them as additional sources within your bibliography.


Course Readings


Feel free to draw from the course readings and films for ideas! Here are some example exploratory questions that could come out of our first series of course topics. The easy way to think about generating an initial question is keeping the same topic but shifting the island focus! For example:


· Voyaging and Settlement

o Drawing from Genz’s (2018) discussion of simultaneous histories of the origins of the Marshallese, what are the connections between the canoe migrations to Rapa Nui and their mythology that points to their island as being the center of the world?


Another way is to take an academic argument and look for current relevance.


· Navigation and Cultural Revival

o To what extent is the “paradox of preservation” (Genz 2011) still present in the Marshall Islands in the contemporary efforts to rejuvenate mat weaving?


Academic References

Your goal is to locate 7 peer-reviewed journal articles (ideally) published in the last 5 years, written by an anthropologist or published in an anthropological journal or a Pacific-focused journal dealing with anthropology generally. Books are out of date as soon as they are published, and usually authors have a smaller version of their book published as an article.

Pacific-based academic journals:

*The Contemporary Pacific

Journal of Pacific History

Journal of the Polynesian Society

Oceania; Pacific Island Monthly

Pacific Perspective

Pacific Studies

Asia Pacific Viewpoint

Anthropology journals:


Go to AnthroSource in our library to find such journals as American Anthropologist and many more





Why listen to people’s stories? Their thoughts can offer new insights into a particular issue, and you can frame your research question to try to understand contemporary understandings of a particular issue. Then all you need is someone’s perspective in their own voice, and this becomes the “new” ideas you develop into your thesis (argument).

Consultants. These are the people you are talking to. They can be friends, family, students, or professionals, as long they claim some level of expertise to the topic you are researching.

You can take advantage of students on campus and their community/family connections. The various student clubs include islanders from Chuuk (Chuukese Student Association), Yap (Waab Student Association), Pohnpei (Pohpei Kaselehlie Club), Marshall Islands (Marshallese Iakwe Club), Kosrae (Kosrae Hilo Organiation), and Samoa (Tupulaga O Samoa mo a Taeao).


In terms of faculty/staff, Dr. Tarisi Vunidilo (Anthropology) is Fijian and Andrew Polloi (Counseling) is Palauan.


Ethics. The interests of the consultants come first and foremost. Informed consent is telling them explicitly what the interview process entails. You must tell them up front that this if for student-based research and the content of the interview will only be shared within the classroom. You must let them know that they can view your summary/transcript and edit it as they see fit, withdraw from the research at any time, or ask to remain confidential.


By asking someone to share their knowledge, you are actually entering into a relationship with them. At a minimum, you should offer to share a copy of your summary of the interview and your research paper with them.


Interview Questions. You are shooting for about a 30 min interview, but remember that these can be casual “talk-story” interviews. Introductory questions should be open-ended and not guided. For example, you wouldn’t start out by asking a Marshallese elder, “Do you feel anger toward the U.S government?” That is a directed question with basically only a yes or no answer, and that makes for a very short reply! Make it more open, so they can expand as they see fit: “Can you share some of your opinions on how the U.S. government conducted nuclear testing?” You should have about 5 very open-ended questions prepared ahead of time. If they are broad enough and your consultant feels comfortable, your new challenge will actually be to getting them to stop talking!! One of these questions should be something about their background and experience – most people are happy to talk about where they came from and their connections to a particular topic. As they share their stories, then you can focus in on more guided questions that help you with your particular research question. I encourage you to run your questions by me first – some issues can be very sensitive and miswording can make people uncomfortable.



Writing. To incorporate this information into the 7-8 page paper, the written content of the interview, whether summarized or quotes, should be about 1/7 of the entire research paper (5 academic references + 1 film + 1 interview = 7 sources of information). You should envision, say, ½ to 1 page of summary for the interview that could be interwoven into your paper. (If you only use 1 sentence as the content of your interview, I will question whether you really interviewed someone for an hour!).





See the Grading Rubric. The information in “Section A. Content” roughly corresponds to the organization of a research paper:


· Introduction / Island Setting

· Background literature on the problem

· Research question

· Research methodology (this can be brief; more critical if doing interviews)

· Results: Present the major themes and articulate your main points ( = thesis statement) in 1 sentence (for example: “Based on my interview with Mr. Green, I argue that…..”)

· Discussion. What is the relevance? How do findings relate to the background literature? Do you have additional questions you would explore in the future? How is this topic connected to our course?




If you choose to conduct and include interviews, you won’t present the major themes, just like you would uncover from literature sources. You may choose to summarize people’s statements, but oftentimes it may be better to allow their voices to speak for themselves, and selections of the interview, if it had been recorded, can be used in quotes or block quotes. Typically the in-text citation acknowledges the date and person of the interview, e.g., (Interview with Mr. Green, October 30, 2019).

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