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Title: The Custodians of the Gift: Intangible Cultural Property and Commodification of the Fijian Firewalking Ceremony 
Author: Pigliasco, Guido Carlo
Date: 2007-08
Citation: Pigliasco, Guido Carlo. 2007. "The Custodians of the Gift": Intangible Cultural Property and Commodification of the Fijian Firewalking Ceremony. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Hawai'i.
Abstract: To disentangle the intertwined topics of property, commodification, tradition and change on the Fijian island of Beqa, this dissertation takes an unconventional ethnographic approach. The Fijian firewalking ceremony (vilavilairevo) traditionally performed only by members of the Sawau tribe on the island of Beqa, is a prime example of a propitiation ritual that has become commodified to suit the requirements of tourism. The reproduction of tradition on Beqa is currently being shaped by social processes such as globalization, tourism, and commodification. Issues of property, heritage and international policies intertwine with local realities and practices. Hence, in the course of this study three interconnected layers local, national and transnational, are located and discussed as dialogically engaged ethnographic material. In particular, this study points to an intensification of the meta-locale, cross-border interactions and growing interdependence between local, national and transnational actors through a deterritorializing process in which social spaces, borders and customs lose some of their previously overriding influence. On Beqa, cultural, religious, social and economic relations have become more global over time through integration of markets and the rapid spread of technologies such as the Internet, which are redefining concepts of identity, self-determination, public domain and the legitimacy of international institutions, and reflecting a hierarchy of power at the international level. This study aims to propel ethnographic practice into the social and transnational vortex of twenty-first-century social life addressing the delicate issue of the deparochialization of the research ethic. In the contemporary context of media promotion and the burgeoning industry of world tourism, indigenous rituals that have become commodified represent a well defined and highly active point of contact between local and global realities. In such ritual performances, and in the organizational and discursive practices that support them, indigenous and globalized systems of identity, economics, law, and aesthetics interact in dialogic processes of reproduction and transformation. This study ultimately shows how the flow of new legal ideas associated with traditional knowledge and cultural expressions in an era of cross-national ideologies of culture, tradition and authenticity represents a real challenge for the modern ethnographer, in terms of following their agency, architecture and effects.
Description: Thesis (Ph.D.)--Univeristy of Hawai'i at Manoa, 2007. Anthropology
Sponsorship: Institute of Fijian Language and Culture, Ministry of Institute of Fijian Language and Culture, Ministry of Fijian Affairs, Culture and Heritage
Pages/Duration: 815 pages
Identifier: Former Mana’o EPrint ID6
Keywords: Fiji, Beqa, firewalking ceremony, vilavilairevo, Sawau tribe, tourism, cultural heritage, cultural property, globalization, commodification of rituals
LC Subject Headings: Ethnology

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