Volume 100 1991 > Volume 100, No. 4 > Reviews, p 437 - 443
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REVIEWS

CROCOMBE, Ron: The South Pacific: An Introduction. 5th revised edit. Suva: University of the South Pacific, 1989, viii, 277pp., illus., maps. Price F$10 (Pacific Islands), US$12 (elsewhere), paper.

Michael Goldsmith University of Waikato

Having reviewed the fourth edition of this time-tested survey in the March 1988 issue of this journal, I was asked by the editors to compare it with the latest version. While mindful of the dangers of subjecting the work twice to the vagaries of the same critic, I was swayed by the opportunity to read what Professor Crocombe had made of the Fijian crisis. That turn of events, as I remarked in the earlier review, rendered parts of the previous edition instantly out-of-date. It could also account for the commendable speed with which this new one has appeared.

Unfortunately, haste in getting the fifth edition out has adversely affected some aspects of its production. In order to keep the book to the same length despite additions, the text has been completely reset in a more compressed format. I found this change did not affect legibility, but it has resulted in a number of new typographical and subediting errors. These are particularly noticeable in the “Basic facts” section at the end. More minor instances include a subheading changed in two places but not in a third (Chapter 8), a page header pertaining to the wrong chapter (pp.85-9), and the printing of the same paragraph twice (pp.166, 168) — probably as a result of the modular form of the book, whereby new material has been inserted into existing text. Many of the original photographs have also suffered a loss of quality in this latest reproduction.

On the positive side, a great deal of information has been updated quickly and accurately. New photographs identify the slain FLNKS leader, Jean-Marie Tjibaou, and the newly elected Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Geoffrey Henry (p.167). The former Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior is pictured before its sinking by French agents in Auckland Harbour (p.195). Most of the statistical data are as recent as could reasonably be expected. Many of the maps have been improved by the addition of longitude and latitude markers, and several islands and archipelagos are entered for the first time in the “Basic facts” section: New Zealand, Pitcairn, Galapagos, Torres Strait. The index has been greatly expanded.

It would be tedious to recount all the changes in content, even if I excluded all those which amount to simple rewording or updating of figures and facts. To choose a few at random: they include a detour through the Mead-Freeman “debate” on Samoa that seems to come down on the side of Freeman; a revised and expanded section on the - 438 status of women; a singling out of voluntary contributions to social welfare; recent developments in land issues; extra space devoted to the French colonial record; and soon. The book's basic structure remains unchanged, however, as does its underlying philosophy, clarified by successive readings of the third, fourth and, now, fifth editions. Ironically, the process of revision serves to reveal a continuity of vision in the evolving text, despite the process of repair occasioned by the Fijian crisis and other traumata.

Two areas of theoretical difficulty becoming plain in the long trajectory of this work concern the limits of economic rationality and of indigenous rights. Note that, phrased in this rather stark (and greatly simplified) fashion, the possibility immediately arises of a tension between them, which the author manages to suppress by relegating them to separate domains. This allows efficiency (or “common sense”) to function as the bedrock solution to economic dilemmas, whereas a hierarchy of indigenousness rules in the case of political disputes. In both areas, Crocombe is (justifiably) ambivalent about the solutions he proposes, which may account for the irony he sometimes displays in his handling of the contradictions they generate.

In the first three editions, the most striking example of the argument for economic rationality was the question that headed the chapter on Pacific languages: “Are all 1200 necessary?” By the time of the fourth edition, that had been changed to “Will all 1200 survive?” But, by asking in a new passage whether “customary practices are an obstacle to current goals which are more highly valued” (p.26), the author shows that the general frame to the question is not yet dead. In fact, it draws on a long standing development controversy between economic “progress” and “tradition”. That is not to say that the two are inevitably opposed, as Crocombe is well aware. In the chapter now titled “Creativity” (renamed from “The Creative Arts” because it includes the renaissances of traditional navigation, ritual and sociopolitical organisation [p.101]), he makes the iconoclastic suggestion that overseas funds subsidising agriculture in the Cook Islands would be more profitably diverted to “commercial fine arts”, where, presumably, the rate of return is better (and where the Cook Islanders have a comparative advantage?).

Presented in the same cool manner are some new ways by which Pacific societies redress their alarming trade deficits. Lately, these measures encompass marijuana cultivation (Palau, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Samoa), the sale of passports (Tonga, Marshall Islands), flags of convenience (Vanuatu, the Marshalls and the Cooks), and “strategic denial”, which is the major reason behind US financial aid to Micronesia (pp.132-4). Another index of Crocombe's attitude to hard politico-economic realities is an expanded critique of Islanders who speak loudly against external interference but are in the forefront of those pleading for intervention when it works in their interests as gatekeepers (“Selective interference”, p.194). These people are often members of the administrative elite. In fact, as David Robie pointed out in his review of this book (Pacific Islands Monthly, September 1989), much of Crocombe's reforming zeal is directed at bloated postcolonial bureaucracies.

The most intriguing and substantial new example of the demystifying quest surfaces in the chapter on “Belief”. Here, a section has been added on the increase in the number of religious sects in Tuvalu. While the author places excessive reliance on - 439 Tuvalu Church sources for the view that there was only one denomination present at the time of his first visit in 1965 (in fact, there were already others on several of the islands), his general point is valid — that the virtual monopoly of the Church has been eroded over the last three decades. Crocombe's critique of inefficient diversity then leads him to the view that having eight denominations in a country of only 8500 people is an unaffordable luxury, “as each requires its own staff and people”. He claims that the influx of new faiths “seems to have increased the cost of religion to Pacific people at a time when per capita incomes are generally declining” (pp.77-8). This view has the merit of a certain crude economic rationality. On the other hand, it fails to take into account the importance of minority faiths as foci for sociopolitical dissent. It also underestimates the economic motives that often lie behind church-switching, either by allowing people to opt out of financial obligations to the established churches or by providing new opportunities for travel, employment, and education.

This, I think, is an example of the dangers of divorcing economic from political analysis. Yet, there is a connecting link between the economic and political dimensions in Crocombe's overview of the Pacific. It seems to rest on the increasingly fraught future of pluralism, whether economic, religious, cultural, or “multiracial”. On the one hand, the Pacific cannot escape the homogenisation of the world economy or the intrusive effects of Big Powers with their strategic interests. On the other, the image of harmonious intercommunal relationships allowed for by the consensus politics of “the Pacific Way” has been irreversibly sullied by recent developments.

It is with the “Fijian crisis”, analysed in Chapter 12 (pp.152-4), that the prevailing mood of disillusionment becomes most apparent. Let me deal first with a couple of its echoes. Media dependence and overseas control, for example, can no longer be attributed solely to metropolitan multinational corporations and colonial powers. Many of the smallest Pacific states rely on information supplied by and through organisations based in Fiji — information that was subject to censorship by the military regime after the 1987 coup (pp.201-2). Another example: the Fijian armed forces turned to Indonesia when denied aid by such traditional allies as Australia and New Zealand (p.198). Elsewhere (pp.147-8), Crocombe refers to the Indonesian administration of the Melanesian inhabitants of Irian Jaya as brutally and incompetently dictatorial. When indigenous peoples are threatened, the author pulls no punches and the implication — that the Taukeists were tarnished by that association — is clear. Yet, the underlying commonality of military repression is obscured by the differently perceived status of its victims.

Crocombe asserts that most people “familiar with Fiji” would have “realised that the indigenous Fijian people would not tolerate a government dominated by the interests of the Indian community and that harmonious survival depended on a Fijian majority in power” (p.153). Given the Fijian monopoly over the means of coercion in the police and, especially, the army, “the balance of real power was such that [this] view would prevail”. Like a number of other commentators, Crocombe argues that the key factor behind the coup was ethnicity, “a factor which Marxist interpretations in particular have great difficulty understanding”. Unlike some of those other commentators, Crocombe is clearly critical of the coup and what it means for the Fijian economy, political structure, professions, and way of life. Nevertheless, he implies - 440 that Indian Fijians should probably have accepted their status as second-class political citizens, since their lot had improved greatly from what they might have expected back in India. He also claims that, after a period of “initial adjustment”, those who chose to leave Fiji after the coup will again find themselves better off than if they had stayed.

One does not have to accept the underlying assumption of political inequality in this argument to agree with a realpolitisch version of events in Fiji. There is no denying that the coups took place and that, in retrospect, something like a military takeover was always on the cards (martial law, I suspect, could have achieved almost the same results). That is a shaky foundation, however, from which to infer that the Coalition Government was foredoomed. I base my reading on gaps and traces in the text that seem to portray the Alliance electoral defeat as literally unthinkable. The summary of basic facts on Fiji, for example, should surely have been more carefully worded. Listing those who have occupied the office of Prime Minister, it states: “Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, since independence in 1970, except for a brief period of direct military government” (p.234). Not only does this fail to mention the six-week period in which the country was led by Dr Timoci Bavadra, but it also ignores a sizeable body of opinion that regards Ratu Mara's tenure of the position since 1987 as illegal. Whatever one calls the political rearrangements after the Rabuka intervention, they were not a simple return to the status quo ante. And, as for changing the map of Fijian politics, the Coalition is as much responsible as the coup leaders.

That slip was more disturbing than most. Overall, the book probably contains no more than the usual number of mistakes and misprints brought about by having to meet urgent deadlines under a deluge of rapidly changing information. Unfortunately, all such blemishes undermine the pedagogic value of what remains a useful and up-to-date introduction to the South Pacific.

FARDON, Richard (ed.): Localizing Strategies: Regional Traditions of Ethnographic Writing. Edinburgh and Washington: Scottish Academic Press and Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990. x + 360pp. Price US$39.95 (cloth).

Tomas Ludvigson University of Auckland

This collection of 13 papers from a conference in Edinburgh in 1978 takes a cue from contemporary “postmodern” and deconstructionist critiques of ethnography, to examine in detail streams of ethnographic literature concerned with specific ethnographic regions. The unifying theme is exploration of the variety of influences on how regional ethnographic writing, to understand how specific regional differences have been construed and perpetuated, and how they have affected the course of ethnographic inquiry within each region so constructed.

Through case studies of the development of monograph writing on specific ethnographic regions, the contributors reveal a variety of influences at work in giving shape to each regional ethnographic tradition. We are shown how, for different regions, different exemplary texts were established, exercising influence over sub- - 441 sequent ethnographic research and writing, so that ethnographies became reworked versions, inversions and revisions of previous accounts, developing each regional ethnographic literature as a series of linked debates forming chains of issues over time. As a result, each regional ethnographic tradition is made up of a complicated compound of local realities and metropolitan theory.

While ethnographic regions are often characterised by distinctive features and problems — such as lineage in Africa, exchange in Melanesia, caste in India, Eskimo adaption, Aboriginal marriage systems, and so on — contemporary critiques of ethnography have challenged such regional ethnographic types as no more than the imaginative work of ethnographers, essentialising the areas they have written about by attributing to them distinctive institutions, beliefs, and sociocultural systems allegedly not found elsewhere.

The contributors to this volume counter that it is simplistic to regard regional types as mere artefacts of the ethnographic imagination. Behind these regional stereotypes lie complex histories, both in the contexts of colonial domination and of the evolution of styles of writing and topics for ethnographic research. They are implicated in the service of power, in the demarcation of peoples that accompanied colonial administration. They have been worked out at the local level, against a background of the same peoples over time — ethnographers, informants, research institutes, and colonial, postcolonial and other authorities — each of whom had an interest in advancing a particular version.

Despite their convincing display of a multitude of influences on the shape of regional streams of ethnographic literature, an important concern of several contributors is making a case for “good ethnography”. While acknowledging contemporary critiques of mainstream styles of ethnographic writing, several contributors argue in favour of the detailed, investigative ethnographic studies that, despite the stylistic drawbacks of their times, nevertheless provided a descriptive foundation for challenging conventional wisdom concerning specific regional issues and characteristics.

The contributors argue that much of the debate over ethnographic writing has indeed been ethnographically unspecific, generally ignoring particularities of time and place in favour of theorising a simple dichotomy between “Self” and ethnographic “Other”. This way of framing ethnographic activity sacrifices the specifics of research at particular times and places in order to treat all research as so many refractions of an ethnographic master process. In response to such essentialism, the contributors argue the need for a more precise and complex grasp of context.

This volume should not be missed by anyone with an interest in contemporary debate over ethnographic writing. It certainly provides a timely antidote to some of the more excessive flights of the essentialising academic imagination that have plagued the discussion.

Though only one of the papers deals direct with the Pacific (Marilyn Strathern's essay on “Negative Strategies in Melanesia”), many of the processes that are shown to have exercised an influence over writing about other ethnographic regions suggest interesting and provocative parallels with our part of the world. The relevance of raising such issues for discussion should not be lost on readers of a regionally focused journal like this one. The book is highly recommended.

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HILL, Richard S.: Policing the Colonial Frontier. The History of Policing in New Zealand, Volume One. Wellington: Government Printer, 1986, 2 vols. xxi + 409pp., xiii + 733pp., illus., maps. Price NZ$40.95 (cloth).

HILL, Richard S.: The Colonial Frontier Tamed. The History of Policing in New Zealand, Volume Two. [Wellington]: Historical Branch, Department of Internal Affairs/GP Books, 1989. xiii + 386pp., illus., maps. Price NZ$39.95 (cloth).

John Mitchell University of Auckland

These three books are the first two volumes of the official Government-sponsored police history, produced to mark the Police centennial in 1986.

Volume One (in two parts totalling 1141 pages!) covers the period to 1867. Volume Two (one part of 368 pages) was originally intended to continue from 1867 to 1917, but the author's departure from the Historical Publications Branch of the Internal Affairs Department, coupled with time constraints, has reduced it in scope. This means, of course, a longer wait for material on the 1886-1917 period, and presumably further delays in the final publication of the entire history. Apparently, Hill has left much completed research for his successors so, hopefully, the delays will not be lengthy.

Another byproduct of Hill's departure is that the extensive footnoting of the first volume has been replaced with a Note on Sources in the second. Apparently, a fully sourced text will be available at the Alexander Turnbull Library, but that is of little use to purchasers of this volume, particularly those outside Wellington who wish to use it as a basis for their own research.

The books are the product of an immense amount of research, and the periods studied are vital and interesting. Volume One examines in detail the period following annexation in 1840, through the establishment of police forces by police magistrates at sizeable European settlements, the formation of armed police forces after war between the races broke out, and the establishment of provincial police forces in 1853 as most central government functions were delegated to provincial administrations. Official runanga forces are also covered.

The period after 1867 covered in Volume Two saw a rapid change in policing structures, from the parochial provincial police forces, which had proved to be gravely affected by local “parish pump” politics, to a unified New Zealand Constabulary Force, and ultimately to the formation in 1886 of the national, civil, and unarmed New Zealand Police Force that exists today. These two decades also saw the formation of the paramilitary national Armed Constabulary force as the first military Permanent Force of purely New Zealand origin. Hills account of the history of the subsequent dominant involvement of the Armed Constabulary in the forceful suppression of Maori challenges to colonial rule, from the Te Kooti campaign through to Parihaka, makes a major new contribution to our understanding of this period. This early military emphasis in the Armed Constabulary rapidly gave way to a far more civil emphasis, with the amalgamation of all the Provincial Forces into the Armed Constabulary in 1877, and the final splitting of the police and military wings in 1886.

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It is, therefore, a fascinating and crucial period of police and social history that is covered in these books, and Hill has generally handled it well. A wealth of incidents, demonstrations and crimes are described and will grip the reader, but they are pegged to the context of Hill's theoretical framework. In Volume One he places his factual material on coercive social and racial control firmly in an appropriate socio-economic and political context. In Volume Two the theme is the great change in policing strategy, from a harshly coercive style of social control suitable in rough pioneering days, to a far more benign form, reflecting the social and political changes in New Zealand as a whole. The role of the policeman is seen as changing from the armed constable imposing order on a turbulent society in 1840, to the peace officer maintaining order in a far more tranquil society in 1886.

These books are of great value to the serious student of New Zealand social and political history, spoilt to some extent for this type of reader by the omission of the detailed footnotes in Volume Two. Volume One has a more theoretical cast, and at times the phraseology can be somewhat tedious, for example: “Its semantic transference to England was to be long postponed by hatred amongst the purveyors of ‘official ideology’ of Oliver Cromwell's brief regime, whose centralised mechanisms of direct control, antithetical to the notion of the strategy of indirect control, were regarded by the owning classes as continental in ethos.” Volume One is also let down by its presentation and binding. It looks dry and uninteresting, but it is not! And why is Part 1 409 pages long while Part 2 is 732 pages long? It looks ridiculous and Part 2 is cumbersome. But, minor niggles aside, these books are a magnificent piece of work. They are the first “serious” history of the Police in New Zealand in an academic sense, and have deservedly received widespread recognition and acclaim as a major addition to New Zealand's social and political history.