Throughout the South Pacific, notions of ‘culture’ and ‘development’ are very much alive—in political debate, the media, sermons, and endless discussions amongst villagers and the urban élites, even in policy reports.
Often the terms are counterposed, and development along with ‘economic rationality’, ‘good governance’ and ‘progress’ is set against culture or ‘custom’, ‘tradition’ and ‘identity’. The decay of custom and impoverishment of culture are often seen as wrought by development, while failures of development are haunted by the notion that they are due, somehow, to the darker, irrational influences of culture.
The problem is to resolve the contradictions between them so as to achieve the greater good—access to material goods, welfare and amenities, ‘modern life’—without the sacrifice of the ‘traditional’ values and institutions that provide material security and sustain diverse social identities.
Resolution is sought in this book by a number of leading writers from the South Pacific including Langi Kavaliku, Epeli Hau’ofa, Marshall Sahlins, Malama Meleisea, Joeli Veitayaki, and Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka. The volume is brought together for UNESCO by Antony Hooper, Professor Emeritus at the University of Auckland. UNESCO experts include Richard Engelhardt, Langi Kavaliku, Russell Marshall, Malama Meleisea, Edna Tait and Mali Voi.