On the Edge of the Global: Modern Anxieties in a Pacific Island Nation

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Stanford University Press, Mar 2, 2011 - Social Science - 297 pages
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Life in twenty-first century Tonga is rife with uncertainties. Though the postcolonial island kingdom may give the appearance of stability and order, there is a malaise that pervades everyday life, a disquiet rooted in the feeling that the twin forces of "progress" and "development" and the seemingly inevitable wealth distribution that follows from them have bypassed the society.

Niko Besnier's illuminating ethnography analyzes the ways in which segments of this small-scale society grapple with their growing anxiety and hold on to different understandings of what modernity means. How should it be made relevant to local contexts? How it should mesh with practices and symbols of tradition? In the day-to-day lives of Tongans, the weight of transformations brought on by neoliberalism and democracy press not in the abstract, but in individually significant ways: how to make ends meet, how to pay lip service to tradition, and how to present a modern self without opening oneself to ridicule. Adopting a wide-angled perspective that brings together political, economic, cultural, and social concerns, this book focuses on the interface between the different forms that modern uncertainties take.
 

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Contents

1 Straddling the Edge of the Global
1
2 Tongas Modernity
29
3 Consumption and Cosmopolitanism
75
4 When Gifts Become Commodities
104
5 Modern Bodies on the Runway
125
6 Coloring and Straightening
160
7 Shaping the Modern Body
183
8 Reconfiguring the Modern Christian
205
Sites of Modernity
231
Notes
245
References
263
Index
293
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About the author (2011)

Niko Besnier is Professor of Cultural Anthropology in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. He has also taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Yale University, Victoria University of Wellington, and UCLA. He is the author of five books, most recently, Gossip and the Everyday Production of Politics (2009).

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