Diplomas and Thatch Houses

Asserting Tradition in a Changing Micronesia
Juliana Flinn
A study of the relationship between tradition and cultural identity in Pulap, an atoll in the western Pacific


Diplomas and Thatch Houses examines the people of Pulap, a tiny atoll just north of the Equator in the western Pacific. Pulapese consider themselves and are known to their neighbors as the most traditional islanders, a situation they regard as an asset and not as a sign of backwardness. Pulapese deliberately wear their lavalavas and loincloths and practice traditional dances and rituals. Rather than being just a remnant of the past, tradition for the Pulapese is created and displayed as a means of asserting cultural identity.

Like other Micronesians, the Pulapese view a person less as an isolated, independent individual and more as a link in a network of relationships. Behavior, more than biology or descent, shapes identity. The Pulapese manipulate their "traditional" identity as a political tool--as an adaptive strategy to contend with the rapid changes wrought by a foreign administration. To the Pulapese, tradition is politically valuable; they fiercely contend that their customs and patterns of behavior entitle them to prestige and power in modern Micronesia.

Diplomas and Thatch Houses is an important contribution to the literature on ethnicity, nationality, and cultural identity, as well as to Micronesian/Pacific studies.

Praise / Awards

  • "Diplomas and Thatch Houses will be a relatively rare and important Micronesian conurbation to the growing literature in the fields of ethnicity, cultural identity, politics of culture, and anthropology and education."
    Contemporary Pacific
  • ". . . Flinn's case study is the best one to date detailing the effects of Western education on the social organisation and cultural constructs of a Micronesian community."
    Journal of the Polynesian Society
  • ". . . a welcome addition to the available literature on modern Micronesian communities. It will make an excellent case study for area courses on Oceania and is essential reading for any serious scholar of the contemporary Pacific."
    Journal of the Polynesian Society
  • ". . . one of the few published examples we have from Micronesia that closely examines the relations between an outer-island community and its urban migrants."
    Journal of the Polynesian Society

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 200pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 1992
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10306-5

Add to Cart
  • $79.95 U.S.