the contemporary pacific · fall 2001 chronic, essentialist versions of Kanak ethnography in a mood reminiscent of Jean-Loup Amselle's Logiques Métisses (Paris, 1990). Amselle attacked the colonizing, orientalist imaging of non-European societies and proposed instead "a continuist approach" that recognized the lack of typological rigidity in social systems over time. Alban Bensa sets the tone in his opening essay on the Kanak chief by problematizing Maurice Leenhardt's 1930 reification of the role of chiefs, noting Jean Guiart's surprise to find a generation later that the actual tendency was for Kanak societies to install strangers as chiefs, while reserving control over lands to descendants of the first settlers. Bensa examines the region of Koné from 1740 to 1878 to show that Kanak political competition during the early stages of foreign contact and colonization produced a misleading image in the minds of French observers in the mid-1800s that led to inappropriate fixity in "official" chiefdoms. The French portrayed Chief Goodu as a conquering invader from Tchamba, against whom local chiefs allied with the French in order to protect their own "high chiefdoms." In reality, Goodu was as legitimate as Kanak tradition allowed, and his rivals were manipulating the colonial administration
The Contemporary Pacific – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Jul 1, 2001
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