ASAO Histories

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The papers in this collection were developed through a series of informal and working sessions held at annual meetings of the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania (ASAO) from 2015 to 2018. The authors are former or current ASAO officers or members of the ASAO Board of Directors. To research and recount the histories of various aspects of the organization, they drew on ASAO Newsletters and other ASAO archival sources, interviews with founding or other long-time association members, and their own experiences. The papers were subsequently revised and edited, and a preface has been added to locate this effort in ASAO’s ongoing commitment to document its history. At least one additional paper is in preparation and more may be added at a later date.


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Now showing 1 - 10 of 11
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    Preface: Writing ASAO Histories
    (Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania, 2021-05) Rensel, Jan
    Keeping the written history of the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania has been on the agenda for ASAO since the very earliest days of the organization’s existence. This essay recounts various efforts to document that history and to compile significant records, such as a bibliography of publications arising from ASAO sessions. It then describes the process behind the development of the papers in this collection over the course of several ASAO sessions and briefly describes the focus of each essay. Paper topics range from the nature of ASAO sessions, annual meeting site selection, and the distinguished lecture series; to issues of inclusiveness and rights of membership, Pacific Islander participation, and student mentoring; to ASAO book series and other forms of communication including newsletters, the ASAONET listserve, and the ASAO website.
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    A History of ASAO Sessions: Formats and Topics
    (Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania, 2021-05) Mawyer, Alexander ; Howard, Alan
    This paper provides a history of the organization from its earliest beginnings in the late 1960s as the Association for Social Anthropology in Eastern Oceania (inclusive of Polynesia and Micronesia), and its incorporation of Melanesian societies in the early 1970s, until 2017. Relying on ASAO Newsletters, we compiled a database of some 700 conference sessions from 1967 through 2017. Drawing on this as well as on the recollections of surviving founders of the organization and long-term members who were involved in the shaping of ASAO’s policies over the years, we analyze the rationales behind the evolution of procedural formats for processing papers from informal sessions, working sessions, and formal symposia to publishable volumes.
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    The ASAO Monograph and Book Series
    (Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania, 2021-05) Critchlow, Margaret ; Strathern, Andrew ; Stewart-Strathern, Pamela J. ; Dominy, Michèle ; Mageo, Jeannette ; Stasch, Rupert
    This paper, coauthored by the all of the editors of the Monograph (now Book) Series of the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania (ASAO) since 1983, provides a detailed history of how the series began in 1967, the purposes it was intended to serve, the steps its publishing processes involved, arrangements with the various presses that handled the volumes over time, and how all of this evolved over more than half a century, including in response to macro-level changes and challenges in the world of academic publishing.
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    ASAO Special Publications and Distinguished Lectures
    (Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania, 2021-05) Lindstrom, Lamont
    The Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania (ASAO)’s Distinguished Lectures, an annual custom that took shape from earlier occasional special talks, sparked its Special Publications series with the publication of Marshall Sahlins’s lecture, Historical Metaphors and Mythical Realities: Structure in the Early History of the Sandwich Islands Kingdom in 1981. Special Publications have been edited by Ivan Brady, Deborah Gewertz, and Lamont Lindstrom. Lectures and Special Publications were married more firmly when an ASAO Board decision limited the series to publishing only Distinguished Lectures. This arrangement decayed after a number of years when no Distinguished Lecture came available for publication. The journal Oceania instead agreed to publish ASAO’s Distinguished Lectures as feature articles in its November issues, and the Special Publication series was discontinued. In this paper I review the history, highlights and lowlights, of these two ASAO enterprises.
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    Place Matters: A History of ASAO Meeting Sites
    (Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania, 2021-05) Rynkiewich, Michael A.
    Having attended the meetings of the Association for Social Anthropology (ASAO) off and on since 1969, and having served as the "Site Coordinator" for seven years, in this paper I take the long view of meeting site selection. The explicit and implicit criteria for a good meeting site, the politics of site selection, and even the locus of decision making have all changed over the years, and rightly so as, on the one hand, ASAO membership has grown to include scholars from the Pacific and Europe, and, on the other, the hotel and catering business has changed. Chances were taken; some turned out well, others did not. Lessons were learned so that, as the work to discover potential sites moved from being a responsibility of the whole membership to that of a committee and eventually of an individual, the process became more complex and demanding. Still, a good site sets the stage for the real work of ASAO: to provide a venue where Pacific Islanders, students, teachers, and researchers (not all mutually exclusive categories) can exchange information and perspectives in order to further Pacific Islands studies.
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    Inclusiveness and ASAO Membership Categories
    (Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania, 2021-05) Flinn, Juliana
    When the author first encountered the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania (ASAO) as a graduate student in 1982, she had a sense that new people were embraced and that status differences were minimally visible. Furthermore, since that time the organization has grown to include and welcome people other than anthropologists and other than scholars, and innovative types of sessions have been allowed at the meetings. Pacific Island scholars have been encouraged to participate, and the number of international members has grown. Nonetheless, there has been tension over the years regarding inclusiveness, especially with regard to categories of membership and the rights accorded various types of members. As the association has grown, voting rights have expanded from the relatively small category of Fellow to all individual members.
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    Jane Goodale and the “Bryn Mawr Mafia”: The Origins and Consequences of Including Students in ASAO
    (Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania, 2021-05) Zimmer-Tamakoshi, Laura
    Late Bryn Mawr Professor Jane C. Goodale played an important role in the development of the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania (ASAO). One part of that role was encouraging her students to participate in the association early in their education and academic careers. The results of that encouragement are evident in the number of Bryn Mawr students (both undergraduates and graduate students) who went on to play important roles in ASAO themselves, the quality of their academic and intellectual careers, and the ongoing presence and importance of students at ASAO meetings.
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    The Origins and Development of the Pacific Islands Scholars Fund
    (Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania, 2021-05) Rensel, Jan
    The Pacific Islands Scholars Fund (PISF) was established and funded by contributions from members of the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania (ASAO) in order to support the increased participation of Pacific Islander scholars in ASAO sessions at the association’s annual meetings. This paper traces the origins of the fund as well as the various accompanying ways that ASAO members, especially the PISF chair and committee members, session organizers, and other participants, have provided additional support and mentorship to encourage and facilitate the incorporation of Pacific Islanders in ASAO sessions.
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    (Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania, 2021-05) Scaglion, Richard
    This paper examines the growth of ASAO from a society primarily focused on Eastern Oceania and Austronesian-speaking peoples to an umbrella organization that, today, encompasses the entire range of Pacific cultures. A primary decision towards this end was to include the very large number of researchers who work with speakers of non-Austronesian languages on the mainland of New Guinea. ASAO began as ASAEO, the Association for Social Anthropology in Eastern Oceania. Its members employed a controlled comparison approach to explore social variation in Austronesian (mostly Polynesian) societies. Meanwhile, Melanesianists, especially those working on the mainland of New Guinea with Papuan-speaking peoples, were without a comparable professional organization. Starting around 1980, a regional newsletter called NEWS (The NorthEast Wantok System newsletter) was begun with the goal of helping Melanesianists located in the Northeast area of the USA to keep in touch. It quickly grew and morphed into a regular newsletter with much wider (actually worldwide) distribution. But as the participation of Melanesianists in ASAO grew, NEWS became redundant with the ASAO Newsletter and the ASAONET listserv, and NEWS was terminated in May 1995. In this paper, I use NEWS as a focal point to trace the increasing involvement of Melanesianist anthropologists in ASAO and the concomitant broadening of ASAO’s comparative ethnographic base.
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    Virtually Initiated: A Personal Account of ASAONET’s Impact on the Life of a Young Anthropologist
    (Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania, 2021-05) Kolshus, Thorgeir
    The ASAONET listserv began in 1992, and the author of this account subscribed in 1997, immediately after returning from his first fieldwork in Vanuatu. Before attending his first meeting of the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania (ASAO) in 2005, the email exchanges he witnessed between members provided food for his imagining what sort of community ASAO was. But even though at a number of points he was tempted to jump into the discussions, anxiety got the better of him and his interaction remained at the level of observation. He finally replied to the full list in response to one question, and the information he provided was much appreciated. But almost twenty years after signing up, he still hasn't initiated an ASAONET posting, the reasons for which are examined in this paper – which, even as far as auto-ethnographies go, is highly idiosyncratic.

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