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Title: Royal Backbone and Body Politic: Aristocratic Titles and Cook Islands Nationalism since Self-Government
Authors: Sissons, Jeffrey
LC Subject Headings: Oceania -- Periodicals.
Issue Date: 1994
Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press
Center for Pacific Islands Studies
Citation: Sissons, J. 1994. Royal Backbone and Body Politic: Aristocratic Titles and Cook Islands Nationalism since Self-Government. The Contemporary Pacific 6 (2): 371-96.
Abstract: The main body of this article is a narrative account of the partial inclusion of traditional
titleholders in the Cook Islands nation as representatives of local "royalty"
or an ancient Polynesian heritage. Shifting forms of ideological inclusion
and political exclusion are discussed in relation to changes in the way the nationbuilding
project has been pursued since self-government in 1965. Of particular
interest is how successive Cook Islands leaders have sought to incorporate a
partly disempowered traditional leadership into a postcolonial imagined community.
Between 1965 and 1974, during a period of party nationalism, Albert Henry
encouraged the view that ariki, as local "royalty" should remain above and outside
everyday politics. With the development of a local tourist industry, local titleholders
came to embody a valued ancient heritage. However, this greater symbolic
empowerment did not translate into a greater role in local government. The defeat of Albert Henry in 1978 by Tom Davis and the Democratic Party saw locallevel
titleholders ignored by the government in favor of the symbolic reinstatement
of an indigenous royalty. Since 1989, in the context of a rapidly expanding
tourist industry and a growing middle class, local traditional leaders have once
more been seeking to translate increased symbolic status into real political autonomy.
Contradictory developments until the present suggest that, despite encouraging
government rhetoric, these efforts are destined to meet with limited success.
ISSN: 1043-898X
Appears in Collections:TCP [The Contemporary Pacific], 1994 - Volume 6, Number 2

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