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"Our history is written ... in our mats": State formation and the status of women in Tonga.

Author: Christine Ward Gailey; New School for Social Research (New York, N.Y.)
Dissertation: Ph. D. New School for Social Research 1981
Edition/Format:   Thesis/dissertation : Thesis/dissertation : Microfiche : EnglishView all editions and formats
Publication:Dissertation Abstracts International, 42-08A.
Summary:
State formation has been viewed in the Marxist tradition as intimately involved in the development of gender hierarchy. Wherever such hierarchies exist, women are the subordinate gender. The Tongan Islands in Polynesia present a case of state formation which is recent, and yet the "native kingdom" was not imposed through capitalist colonization. The concern of this project is how the status of women changed in this
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Material Type: Thesis/dissertation
Document Type: Book
All Authors / Contributors: Christine Ward Gailey; New School for Social Research (New York, N.Y.)
OCLC Number: 224267194
Notes: (UnM)AAI8202137.
Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 42-08, Section: A, page: 3652.
Reproduction Notes: Microfiche. Ann Arbor, Mich : University Microfilms International.
Description: 363 pages

Abstract:

State formation has been viewed in the Marxist tradition as intimately involved in the development of gender hierarchy. Wherever such hierarchies exist, women are the subordinate gender. The Tongan Islands in Polynesia present a case of state formation which is recent, and yet the "native kingdom" was not imposed through capitalist colonization. The concern of this project is how the status of women changed in this fundamental socio-economic and political transformation, and some of the reasons that the identified changes affected women and men differentially. To investigate this problem, I have analyzed archival materials, early traveler's and missionaries' accounts, ships' logs, and colonial advisors' journals. In addition, Tongan oral histories, myths, and genealogies have been examined as they were recorded in early ethnographic reports. More recent ethnographic materials have been utilized where they pertain to the directions of changing status and class formation.

I have focused primarily on two periods of Tongan history, the 150 years prior to European contact and the 150 years following the introduction of Western people and influences. For the precontact period, I have examined the kinship structure with regard to ways kinship relations shaped women's and men's sources of authority and claims in one another's labor and products. The ranking and stratification schema are discussed as they affected the division of labor and gender relations. Tensions within kinship relations, among chiefly people, and between chiefly and nonchiefly strata are analyzed with reference to possible class formation. It is shown that class relations did not characterize precontact Tongan society, because even the highest ranking chiefly women were engaged in socially necessary production. In addition, tensions within the kinship structure obviated attempts to consolidate political control.

The involvement of chiefly and nonchiefly women in the continuous creation of a kin-based--albeit stratified--society is demonstrated. In the post-contact period, I have identified several processes as salient to state formation in this case. The processes are associated with capitalist colonization, but in the Tongan case, they catalyzed rather than caused, the emergence of class relations and technically identifiable state structures. Each of these interrelated processes--the introduction of firearms and commodity trade, the development of commodity production, the introduction and imposition of Christian ideology--is analyzed with regard to the transformation of kin-based authority and labor relations, especially as these involved women's authority, labor and products. State formation in Tonga is shown to be on-going, inconclusive, and fundamentally opposed to the reproduction of a kin-based relations and of production for use.

Those chiefly women who sided with the faction which became the noble class have alternative sources of authority to their formerly kin-based sources. Other women, however, have faced threats to their traditionally authoritative roles, and the intrinsically superior value of their labor and products. These assaults have had economic, political and ideological dimensions. Some have derived from conscious efforts by state-associated classes and institutions; others have been inherent in such processes as commoditization as it occurred in Tonga, and the restriction of kinship relations in general. Most Tongan women's statuses have declined more than most men's, because women were identified with, and more socially valued than men in social reproduction in the kinship context. The reproduction of a class-based state society has thus involved the devaluation of the labor and goods which re-created kinship relations of authority and production.

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