Volume 91 1982 > Volume 91, No. 2 > Correspondence: women's roles in Tikopia, by R. Firth, p 255-256
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- 255
CORRESPONDENCE WOMEN'S ROLES IN TIKOPIA

This note on research into women's roles in Tikopia society may be relevant for readers of this Journal interested in the Tikopia ethnographic record or in studies concerning women's roles. In 1977, as part of a seminar on “Interpretations of Tikopia Society” I prepared a paper on “Sex Roles and Sex Symbols in Tikopia Society” for presentation in the Department of Anthropology at Berkeley, where I was visiting professor. At the request of the editors of the Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers, I offered this for publication, and was advised it was designed for Nos. 57 and 58 of the Papers, to appear in 1978 as a special Pacific Islands issue. In fact, other editorial commitments intervened, and this publication, labelled Spring and Fall 1978, and also bearing the date 1981, did not actually appear until early 1982. Meanwhile I had lost sight of the paper, and was preparing a revision of it for publication elsewhere when I learnt of its publication in the original form. I am grateful to the editors of the Kroeber Papers for including my contribution in their attractive special Pacific issue. But in view of the lapse of time between submission of the paper and its publication a gloss is desirable.

My paper on women's roles and symbolism embodies a summary and reconsideration of my own data from Tikopia resident on the home island and abroad, collected on several research expeditions. But it represents the position as of 1977, and in the interim an important new dimension has been given to the record from the research of Judith Macdonald, working from the Department of Anthropology in Auckland. Working in 1979–80, with both married and unmarried women in Tikopia and in one of its most successful colonies at Waimasi in San Cristobal, she has added a great deal of material to the ethnographic record of Tikopia women's ideas and activities. In Auckland in 1978 I was able to discuss her field plans with her, and she has since courteously kept me in touch with the results of her research. Perhaps I may be allowed to say that many of her results confirm my own earlier data and interpretations. But they also supply what I could not provide, that is, the intimacy and particular emphases of a woman's access to the female sphere, and a woman's point of view, which are essential to a fuller understanding in this whole area of problems. Moreover, Judith Macdonald has also been able to study the Tikopia more recently than I could and so chart the course of modern developments affecting the position of women more clearly.

If opportunity had allowed, some reference of this kind would have appeared - 256 in my paper. As it is, this note may serve as acknowledgement of the contribution she has since been making to a deeper understanding of Tikopia social relations, with particular focus on the roles of women.

August 2, 1982.