The Polynesians: Anthropological Perspectives
General Catalog Course Title:
The Polynesians: Anthropological Persepectives
Terms Offered:
Fall 2016
Fall 2015
Fall 2014

The Polynesians make up a family of related cultures whose ancestors discovered and settled the islands within a vast triangular region of the Pacific Ocean, with apices at Hawai'i, New Zealand, and Easter Island.

The origins and migrations of the early Polynesians puzzled explorers and scholars during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and became the subject of serious anthropological study in the twentieth century. Bringing to bear the different perspectives of archaeology, comparative ethnography, biological anthropology, and linguistics, scholars have shed an increasingly clear light on the story of the remarkable Polynesian diaspora—and of the subsequent evolution of these island cultures. This seminar will explore these different approaches within anthropology and how they have unraveled the history of the Polynesian peoples.

Professor Patrick Kirch has studied the island cultures of the Pacific for more than four decades, carrying out original fieldwork from Papua New Guinea in the west to Mangareva in the east. His particular specialty in anthropology is prehistoric archaeology, but he has also done original research in Polynesian ethnography and linguistic anthropology. He is especially interested in the origins and dispersals of the Polynesians, their interactions with their island ecosystems, and the evolution of their societies from simple chiefdoms to archaic states.

Professor Kirch is a member of the U. S. National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

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