Nation Making

Emergent Identities in Postcolonial Melanesia
Robert J. Foster, Editor
Examines the process of nation making in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu


In this theoretically sophisticated volume, contributors examine the process of nation making in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu- states that attained formal political independence between 1970 and 1980. The remarkable cultural diversity within these states demands close ethnographic study of different groups and their contesting definitions of nationhood and leads to highly original approaches.

The essays explore the political conditions and cultural assumptions that inform how Melanesians variously imagine a national community. The authors interpret a wide range of materials, from political speeches and official ceremonies of state to newspaper advertisements and life crisis rites. They demonstrate both how the legacies of divisive colonial rule, the weakness of the postcolonial state, and the exigencies of capitalist markets undermine the processes of nation making in contemporary Melanesia and how new forms of popular and consumer culture potentially shape an emergent national consciousness.

Comparative and historical in its orientation, this book will appeal to readers not only in anthropology but in political science, social history, and cultural studies. It will be of special value to those interested in comparative politics and history, Pacific studies, ethnicity and nationalism, and colonial and postcolonial studies.

Robert J. Foster is Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Rochester.

Praise / Awards

  • "This volume has an exceptional coherence and strength. . . . Nation Making . . . should dispel any doubts in these postmodern days about whether anthropological theory still has implications for the 'real' world."
    American Anthropologist
  • ". . . Foster and all of the contributors to this volume have provided a welcome and valuable service in raising, advancing, and challenging understandings of the nation in postcolonial Melanesia and beyond."
    American Historical Review
  • ". . . one of the first [books] which views questions relating to Melanesian national identities through postcolonial lenses. . . . The individual chapters are lively and interesting, and the more theoretically adroit contributions (not least, the splendid introduction by Foster) advance our understanding of the by now largely familiar work on nation, national identity and the nation-state."
    Australian Journal of Political Science, 33:3
  • "The strength of the volume consists of its focus on the symbolic contests for the mind and soul of the citizen in national construction and the need to examine the area of culture and symbols in this regard."
    Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism
  • ". . . a stimulating contribution to what appears to have become its own subdiscipline within anthropology; the study of the 'nation.'"
    Canberra Anthropology
  • "An important addition to the literature of nation-building and the underreported Pacific."
  • ". . . destined to be a standard reading in the literature on Melanesia as a cultural and political region. But it also merits a wider reading among audiences concerned with productions of national identities generally, particularly in small nonwestern communities enmeshed in larger nation-making projects."
    Contemporary Pacific
  • ". . . an excellent collection of essays which reflects the growing interest among cultural anthropologists in the phenomenon of nation-making and understandings of nationhood."
    Nations and Nationalism

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 288pp.
  • 11 B&W photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 1997
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08427-2

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  • $37.95 U.S.