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The New Shape of Old Island Cultures – Micronesian Seminar

MicSem Publications

The New Shape of Old Island Cultures: A Half-Century of Social Change in Micronesia

  • Francis X. Hezel S.J.
  • Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001. 198 pp. 2001. FAMILY CHANGE HISTORY

The years since World War II have brought unprecedented social change to Micronesia. Now, drawing on more than four decades of experience living and working in the region, Francis X. Hezel assesses the most striking changes to have swept over the islands in the past fifty years. His careful and comprehensive reading of Micronesian anthropology and history allows him to present insights into patterns of change touching the lives of not only Micronesians but people in other parts of the Pacific as well.

The broad range of topics covered include family structure, land, gender roles, cultural treatment of life events (birth, marriage, death), sexuality, political authority, and demography and migration. Hezel argues that the primary engine of social change in Micronesia has been the dramatic shift from subsistence fishing and gardening to salaried employment in a cash economy. He makes the case that this fundamental change has fragmented the extended family, changed the way land is viewed, revolutionized gender roles, and paved the way for an ethics of individualism.