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The Ethnographic Experiment: A.M. Hocart and W.H.R. Rivers in Island Melanesia, 1908

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Volume 1

Pacific Perspectives: Studies of the European Society for Oceanists

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The Ethnographic Experiment

A.M. Hocart and W.H.R. Rivers in Island Melanesia, 1908

Edited by Edvard Hviding and Cato Berg

336 pages, 20 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-342-0 $145.00/£107.00 / Hb / Published (June 2014)

ISBN  978-1-78533-339-2 $34.95/£27.95 / Pb / Published (September 2016)

eISBN 978-1-78238-343-7 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit  Buy the eBook! $34.95info on epub formatRequest a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“[With this] very cohesive set of essays, Hviding and Berg h ave done an excellent job lifting an important expedition out of the archival oblivion where it reposed for the better part of a century. This is an appropriate volume to introduce the new Pacific Perspectives series. As such, this work appeals to readers interested in the histories of anthropology and Pacific worlds.” · Oceania

“Mere scholars and no novelists here, volume contributors nonetheless have good biographical stories to tell, good ethnographic tales to recall.” · Anthropological Forum

“Edvard Hviding and Cato Berg's new edited collection on the neglected Melanesian expedition on 1908 is timely and important.” · Anthropology Review Database

“It has been quite a while since I encountered a collection of essays that was as well coordinated, topically consistent, and thematically linked as this one. The end result is an intellectually rigorous examination of an overlooked but nonetheless extremely important event in the history of anthropology… The volume, taken as a whole, has a refreshingly critical and reflective quality about it.” · David Hanlon, University of Hawai`i at Mānoa

“This compelling volume invites readers to imagine what the discipline might have been like if this expedition had been taken as a foundational moment in the discipline’s history. It is an alternative to Malinowskian myth of the heroic individual fieldworker isolated on a beach watching the boat go away.” · Debra McDougall, University of Western Australia


In 1908, Arthur Maurice Hocart and William Halse Rivers Rivers conducted fieldwork in the Solomon Islands and elsewhere in Island Melanesia that served as the turning point in the development of modern anthropology. The work of these two anthropological pioneers on the small island of Simbo brought about the development of participant observation as a methodological hallmark of social anthropology. This would have implications for Rivers’ later work in psychiatry and psychology, and Hocart’s work as a comparativist, for which both would largely be remembered despite the novelty of that independent fieldwork on remote Pacific islands in the early years of the 20th Century. Contributors to this volume—who have all carried out fieldwork in those Melanesian locations where Hocart and Rivers worked—give a critical examination of the research that took place in 1908, situating those efforts in the broadest possible contexts of colonial history, imperialism, the history of ideas and scholarly practice within and beyond anthropology.

Edvard Hviding is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Bergen, Director of the Bergen Pacific Studies Research Group, and Coordinator of the EU-funded European Consortium for Pacific Studies. Among his publications are Guardians of Marovo Lagoon (1996), Islands of Rainforest (with T. Bayliss-Smith, 2000), Reef and Rainforest: An Environmental Encyclopedia of Marovo Lagoon (2005) and Made in Oceania (co-edited with K.M. Rio, 2011). In 2010, Hviding was awarded the Solomon Islands Medal for his development of vernacular education programmes in the Marovo language.

Cato Berg is an Associate Senior Scholar of the Bergen Pacific Studies Research Group. He has a PhD from the University of Bergen, where he has also held positions as a Postdoctoral Fellow and a Lecturer in anthropology. His research experience from Solomon Islands includes fieldwork both in Honiara and on the island of Vella Lavella. He has recently studied how localized forms of hierarchy, kinship, and land tenure are transformed in engagements with a Westminster-based legal system inherited from the nation’s colonial past.

Subject: Anthropology (General)Colonial History
Area: Asia-Pacific


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