Vessels of kastom : canoes and canoe builders of Lamen Island

Van Allen, Joel B.
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [August 2012]
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This work is divided into three chapters, each addressing the various perspectives that inevitably converge in the construction of kastom and canoes on Lamen Island. Chapter 1 tackles the nature of construction itself from a philosophical and metaphysical vantage point that can metaphorically address the inherent paradox created by kastom as a discursive practice; furthermore, it follows the construction of kastom through its ontological development from mind to mouth to materiality--a process referred to in subsequent chapters as materialization. Chapter 2 moves beyond notions of construction to examine the various ways in which aspects of local identity are reconstructed in relation to kastom. The analysis expands outward from the somatic metaphors central to Lamen Island canoe construction, to the gendered roles and motifs that, both literally and figuratively, ensure a canoe's structural integrity. Subsequent sections move the analysis from metaphor and motif outward again, into the cultural and social processes of sanctification that allow the tradition of canoe building to survive, with the final two sections of the chapter expanding further still to examine how sanctification works within the context of kastom as both indigenous science and modern magic, using two very different canoes as examples of shared historical entanglements and practices of international resource harvesting. Chapter 3, above all, catalogues the technical and material construction of a Lamen Island canoe, detailing the entire process from initial tree selection to the canoe's maiden voyage. Throughout the construction, aspects of Chapters 1 and 2 are encountered and considered; however, the perspective shifts to that of my own as a foreign researcher, enlisting a more reflexive accounting of my relationship to both the project and the people participating in it, and forcing considerations of my own role in articulating kastom. Finally, Chapter 4 concludes the work by revisiting the "continuing dialectic" between Lamen Island and the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, including the role of its indigenous fieldworkers, my role as a foreign researcher, and the Centre's greater role in representing both national solidarity and kastom to the international community. I suggest a solution for bridging the liminal gap between centralized and idealized representations of kastom and the peripheral performance of kastom as practical, everyday life.
M.A. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2012.
Includes bibliographical references.
kastom, canoes, Lamen Island
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Theses for the degree of Master of Arts (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Anthropology.
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