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Motor Canoe (credit: Rupert Stasch)

The Pacific area option focuses on the people of Melanesia, and especially Papua New Guinea.  Many arresting innovations in anthropological theory and method have come out of research in Melanesia, and the area continues to provide highly productive challenges for anthropological description and understanding.  Political independence and development in various forms combine to stimulate the interests of Melanesian people and anthropologists alike in social innovation, conceptions of space and time, order and conflict, national consciousness, and new forms of economic and religious life.  Studies of such topics draw upon, and develop, rich and nuanced understandings of exchange systems, gender and the body, conceptions of space and time, myth and ritual symbolism, kinship and social structure, first contact situations, and initiation which reflect the intensity of anthropological interest over many years.  Other linked topics covered by the lectures and seminars range over linguistic diversity and language change, colonialism, Christianity, state-society relations, equality and hierarchy, mental opacity and social process, primitivism and media representations.

Other topics include: big men and political processes; gift exchange and economic life; ritual and religion; gender; Melanesian aesthetics and material culture; radical cultural change; resource extraction, conservation; the nation state and globalisation; first contact and tourism.

Further information including a list of lecture courses and background reading can be found in the Paper Guide in the Paper Resources section to the right of this page.

Paper Resources


SAN4e Pacific Paper Guide

For lecture reading lists, additional teaching materials, past exam questions and exam reports for all ethnographic areas please see the SAN4 Moodle Course.

Please note teaching staff and students enrolled on SAN4 will automatically be enrolled on the SAN4 Moodle course and you will find a link to the course in the ‘My Home’ section of Moodle.

If you are a member of the University of Cambridge and you wish to view the reading lists, past exam questions and exam reports then you can access the SAN4 Moodle Course as a guest. For more information on how to access Moodle Courses as a guest please see Moodle Help.