In Oceania

Visions, Artifacts, Histories

In Oceania

Book Pages: 288 Illustrations: 62 illustrations Published: September 1997

Author: Nicholas Thomas

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Australia/New Zealand/Oceania, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

In this collection of essays, Nicholas Thomas, a leading theorist of historical anthropology, explores the historicization of cultural encounters in the region referred to as Oceania. Basing his claims on wide-ranging historical and ethnographic research and building on his celebrated studies of exchange and colonialism in the Pacific, Thomas describes how outsiders and islanders alike have constructed indigenous cultures over the last two hundred years.
In Oceania documents and analyzes the "rhetorical artifacts" of explorers, missionaries, fiction and travel writers, and the people of the Pacific themselves to illustrate how Oceanic identities have been represented over time. Not content with conventional methods of anthropology or history, Thomas draws on postcolonial theory and literary analysis in extraordinarily wide-ranging analyses of texts, visual images, and historical processes. He demonstrates how cultures of the Pacific Islands have dealt with colonialist ventures, modernity, and the debate about the recuperation of histories and traditions. The picture Thomas paints of Oceania, however, is not one of a group of societies stripped of meaning, but one that shows how the interactions between indigenous cultures and European influences have created entirely new identities.


“These essays exemplify the very diversity of approaches to historical and contemporary Oceania that Thomas advocates. They are full of the level-headed insights that one has come to expect of Thomas, insights that are grounded in historical scholarship and that hone the cutting edge of current anthropology.” — Margaret Rodman , American Ethnologist

"Nicholas Thomas can always be depended upon for lucid arguments that range over an impressive array of materials and engage current debates within and across the fields of anthropology, history, and cultural studies." — Robert J. Foster, University of Rochester

"Thomas makes a statement of major importance on the deep political and intellectual complexities involved in visually and verbally constructing histories and cultures. . . . Sophisticated, original, and compelling." — Don Brenneis, University of California at Santa Cruz


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Nicholas Thomas is Professor of Anthropology, Goldsmiths College, University of London. He is the author of numerous books, including Entangled Objects: Exchange, Material Culture, and Colonialism in the Pacific.

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1998-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2002-9
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