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Persistence of the Gift

Tongan Tradition in Transnational Context

By Mike Evans
Subjects Business & Economics, Economics, Social Science, Anthropology, Ethnography, Political Science
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Paperback : 9781554582143, 220 pages, August 2009

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
Persistence of the Gift: Tongan Tradition in Transnational Context by Mike Evans

List of Figures and Tables


Chapter One: Introduction—Recentring the Periphery

Chapter Two: Economic Development in Polynesia

Chapter Three: Social Structure and Organization during the Contact and Early Post-Contact Period

Chapter Four: European Contact and the Transformation of the Traditional Polity

Chapter Five: Contemporary Social Organization among Village Commoners

Chapter Six: The Island Economy

Chapter Seven: Gift Exchange and Ceremony

Chapter Eight: Conclusion—By Their Actions Ye Shall Know Them


One: A Comparison of the Population and Demography of Ha'ano Island and the Kingdom of Tonga As a Whole

Two: Glossary of Tongan Terms

Three: Configuration of Households—Pila and Leti


References Cited



Tonga, the South Pacific island kingdom located east of Fiji and south of Samoa, is one of the world’s few remaining constitutional monarchies. Although Tonga has long been linked to the world system through markets and political relationships, in the last few decades emerging regional and global structures have had particularly intense and transformative effects. Today, because of greatly increased labour migration, people, money, and resources are in constant circulation among Tonga, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States.

In Persistence of the Gift, Evans provides a detailed ethnographic and historical analysis of how, in spite of superficial appearances to the contrary, traditional Tongan values continue to play key roles in the way that Tongans make their way in the modern world. But this ethnography is neither that of a timeless “ethnographic present” nor of a remote coral atoll. Instead, like the inhabitants of Tonga themselves, the monograph begins in the islands, and works outward, tracing how Tongans seek to meet their own, culturally specific goals, within the constraints, challenges, and opportunities of the world system.

Tongan culture, like our own, continues to transform in the face of global change, but the changes experienced by Tongans everywhere are patterned and managed by the values of Tongan agents. Both creative and conservative, the emerging transnationalist system continues to be discernibly and proudly Tongan.