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Traveling Stories, Colonial Intimacies, and Women's Histories in Vanuatu

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Title:Traveling Stories, Colonial Intimacies, and Women's Histories in Vanuatu
Authors:Rodman, Margaret
subject locations
indigenous methodologies
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LC Subject Headings:Oceania -- Periodicals.
Date Issued:2004
Publisher:University of Hawai'i Press
Center for Pacific Islands Studies
Citation:Rodman, M. 2004. Traveling Stories, Colonial Intimacies, and Women's Histories in Vanuatu. The Contemporary Pacific 16 (2): 233-57.
Abstract:The story of the 1937 death of an eighteen-month-old girl named Wilhemina
(Mina) Whitford in the care of her ni-Vanuatu nursemaid, Evelyn, frames this article.
The Whitford’s version of this story was heard in the course of fieldwork with
descendants of settler families. They tie Mina’s accidental death to an affair Evelyn
was having with a male settler. What about Evelyn? How could she be located
and her version of events recorded? More generally, how can the unwritten histories
of women’s experiences be recovered in a Pacific island context? How can
indigenous women write their own histories of gender in the contexts of colonial
experience? The article offers, first, a theoretically informed descriptive approach,
which finds answers in the gendered and racialized content of contemporary
descriptions of past experiences, such as the story of the child’s death. A second
way of finding Evelyn involves methodological detective work using the network
of ni-Vanuatu women fieldworkers trained through the Vanuatu Cultural Centre.
A 2001 workshop provided a forum for fieldworkers and women who had
worked as housegirls in the colonial (pre-1980) period to discuss work, violence,
gender, race, and history. During the workshop, a fieldworker brought Evelyn’s
story to light. Conclusions point to new ways of integrating indigenous and expatriate
women’s voices in historical and anthropological research in the contemporary
Appears in Collections: TCP [The Contemporary Pacific], 2004 - Volume 16, Number 2

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