In a time of language change and shift and loss, this talk speaks to a revaluation of the problems of thisness and whatness (haecceity and quiddity) of everyday natures in the ethnographic contexts of Tahiti and Mangareva. Motivated by a concern with the slipperiness of seemingly non-controversial natural kinds, I examine several contexts including uplands, seascapes, and the historical socioscapes of disease on Mangareva with reference to elsewhere in the eastern Pacific. The status of natural kinds in Oceanic contexts particularly calls for attention given the possibility that the deceptive transparency of everyday nature may mask significant cultural ambiguities and uncertainties in making sense of Pacific island landscapes and ecologies.
Alexander Dale Mawyer is Assistant Professor at the Center for Pacific Islands Studies. He has conducted fieldwork with the Mangarevan community in the Gambier and Society Islands of French Polynesia focused on language at the intersection of culture and history, and served as one of the co-editors of Varua Tupu: New Writing from French Polynesia, the first anthology of Ma‘ohi literature to appear in English. He is currently the Book and Media Reviews Editor for The Contemporary Pacific: A Journal of Island Affairs.
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