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Creating a Nation with Cloth: Women, Wealth, and Tradition in the Tongan Diaspora

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Volume 4

ASAO Studies in Pacific Anthropology

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Creating a Nation with Cloth

Women, Wealth, and Tradition in the Tongan Diaspora

Ping-Ann Addo

252 pages, 19 illus., 1 map, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-0-85745-895-7 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (June 2013)

eISBN 978-0-85745-896-4 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit  Buy the eBook from these vendorsRequest a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“The book compellingly demonstrates how women, textile wealth and tradition are enmeshed… [and] adds considerably to the understanding of how material culture works in a contemporary society and how women can bind geographically scattered communities through the movement of these valuable objects, which are the products of female activity.”  ·  Pacific Affairs

This is a very well written ethnographic study that is a valuable contribution to the long standing discussions within anthropology about ‘the gift.’ More specifically it adds a new dimension to the work on women’s wealth…[it] is also a valuable addition to work on diasporic populations.”  ·  Helen Lee, La Trobe University

This is an original and important study of the experience of contemporary Tongans… Through nuanced ethnography which moves between Tongatapu and Auckland in New Zealand, she shows how ordinary Tongans daily cross the borders of states and the tenacious barriers between tradition and modernity, gifts and commodities.”  ·  Margaret Jolly, The Australian National University, Canberra


Tongan women living outside of their island homeland create and use hand-made, sometimes hybridized, textiles to maintain and rework their cultural traditions in diaspora. Central to these traditions is an ancient concept of homeland or nation— fonua—which Tongans retain as an anchor for modern nation-building. Utilizing the concept of the “multi-territorial nation,” the author questions the notion that living in diaspora is mutually exclusive with authentic cultural production and identity. The globalized nation the women build through gifting their barkcloth and fine mats, challenges the normative idea that nations are always geographically bounded or spatially contiguous. The work suggests that, contrary to prevalent understandings of globalization, global resource flows do not always primarily involve commodities. Focusing on first-generation Tongans in New Zealand and the relationships they forge across generations and throughout the diaspora, the book examines how these communities centralize the diaspora by innovating and adapting traditional cultural forms in unprecedented ways.

Ping-Ann Addo is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She has published in Pacific Studies, Pacific Arts, Reviews in Anthropology, The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, and in anthologies on Pacific transnationalism and Pacific clothing. She has also been a visiting scholar at the Center for Art and Public Life at the California College of the Arts.

Subject: Gender Studies and SexualityRefugee and Migration StudiesAnthropology (General)
Area: Asia-Pacific


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