Discussion: On the Edge of the Global (Besnier)

On the Edge of the Global
Modern Anxieties in a Pacific Island Nation

Niko Besnier

Publisher’s Summary:

Life in twenty-first century Tonga is rife with uncertainties. Though the postcolonial island kingdom may give the appearance of stability and order, there is a malaise that pervades everyday life, a disquiet rooted in the feeling that the twin forces of “progress” and “development”—and the seemingly inevitable wealth distribution that follows from them—have bypassed the society.

Niko Besnier’s illuminating ethnography analyzes the ways in which segments of this small-scale society grapple with their growing anxiety and hold on to different understandings of what modernity means. How should it be made relevant to local contexts? How it should mesh with practices and symbols of tradition? In the day-to-day lives of Tongans, the weight of transformations brought on by neoliberalism and democracy press not in the abstract, but in individually significant ways: how to make ends meet, how to pay lip service to tradition, and how to present a modern self without opening oneself to ridicule. Adopting a wide-angled perspective that brings together political, economic, cultural, and social concerns, this book focuses on the interface between the different forms that modern uncertainties take.

Introduction (Jesteen and Dale)

The Preface is basically an overview of the information, the author’s approach to interpreting that information, and an opportunity to express gratitude.  In this section we come to understand the author himself.  He spends some time relating his past, which may seem uninteresting and standard, however it is important to recognize these factors in order to better understand his point of view, opinions, and his mission in writing the book.  He begins by telling us that, at 19, he was a college graduate in Mathematics and in search of exoticism, both influential factors.

While he mentions the Tongans throughout the preface, there is a deeper meaning to this section that separates it from the rest of the book.   This part focuses more on the why and how aspects of his fieldwork, while the rest of the book focuses on the what.  It is important that this comes before hand because it sets up and understanding for the rest of the information that is provided in later chapters.  He takes this time to explain his different methods, such as using ‘’deep hanging out’’, recording, interviewing (both in depth and superficially), and surveying.  He tells us about his hangouts, an important aspect to understanding where and how he retrieves much of his information and therefore opinions.  The fact that he tells us he is aware that the Tongans are a culture that has been studied very often is of major importance since it sets up the fact that he is not only taking a different angle than what has previously been performed, but that there is also a certain anticipation from the Tongan side since they have an understanding of what they are supposed to display or achieve for an anthropologist.  The fact that he is approaching this topic in a new and different way has an effect on the Tongans, because they cannot understand or anticipate what it is Besnier is after.  This is an important aspect when evaluating the validity of Besnier’s work and helps in knowing that one sees the informants more as who they really are and not simply as practiced actors performing for the anthropologist.  The fact that they cannot put on a show means that they cannot meet what they believe his expectations are.  In addition, Besnier makes it clear that he is focusing on Urban Tongans, and therefore we should not infer that this is a universal image of the Tongan peoples.

In the preface, once Besnier has moved beyond methodology, he uses these pages to set his structure and approach, and also to give his book a sense of flow.  This may be for those who might not be able to recognize the significance of the order and connectedness between his topics and the approach he uses to lead up to what he will accomplish.

The significant part of this chapter is that it is the time when he simply talks about his views and his purpose for studying the Tongan people.  This gives the reader a certain insight into his philosophy; something that will help in understanding the author and his aims, as well as his assumptions and conclusions, throughout the rest of the book.  Once these philosophies are recognized, the reader gains not only a sense of understanding of the author himself including insight into how to evaluate the conditions expressed in his work, but perhaps also in planning and understanding ones own endeavors.

What is the most significant part of this preface

Besnier graduated at 19 with a degree in what and why is that important?

The fact that he is approaching this topic in a new and different way has what effect on the Tongans?

Is Besnier focusing on all Tongans or just a certain segment?

Chapter 1 (Michelle and Rene)

In chapter one, titled “Straddling the Edge of the Global,” Niko Besnier focuses on the overall concept of what modernity is and how it affects people.  Besnier describes how people negotiate between modernity and tradition, and how it is affects their everyday life. Besnier begins the chapter by describing the riots on November 16, 2006, called “16/11”. He points out that the looting and arson happened in a climate of anxiety and unprecedented nature. The Tongans have had to struggle with their indigenous identity (traditional ways) and the colonial powers (Western modernity) that threaten the existence of that. Pressure to democratize into a Western format of social organizing, the Tongan people have since had to succum to and demonstrate “good governance”. This was a precondition for economic assistance to the other monetarily poor islands in Tonga. Besnier breaks up the concept of modernity, and applies it into the Tongan frame, into several sections: theoretical contexts, plurals, bifocality, sites, selves, objects and bodies.

Besnier touches on the sociological concept of imagination. In this meaning, the agents recognize that modernity happens and they have the capacity to shape and change modernity while still taking part in their own lives. He describes that the imagination is a powerful tool that is very grounding. This is important to the Tongan people as they identify strongly with their culture. They were capable of imagining life on other islands and the possibility of new exchanges. They especially take pride in their home country if they happen to move away to another location. In this sense, modernity is considered and viewed “as a matter of mobility of people, ideas, resources, and signs” (13).

As the outsider, Besnier explains how an ethnographer can focus on modernity from two extreme forces that  blend and overlap: one extreme being “global forces” and the other being “grounded locality” (12).  Each have their pros and cons; Besnier explains that one can avoid the “pitfalls”.  He explains that to recognize that modernity “does not ‘mean’ the same thing to different people within the same society” (14). And indeed to the Tongans, modernity is much more performed and enacted rather than talked about. The ethnographer must see that there are “multiple modernities” and that “modernity is with us, wherever we are” (6). Besnier states that Tongans keep tradition and modernity apart which is what he  states that he is interested in.  He states that, to Tongans, modernity threatens tradition (10), but Besnier believes “both emerge from the same social and cultural forms” (10).

The sites or locations of where modernity happens with social action is very contextual. Besnier describes that these sites are not only where social action takes place but, it is where ideological and structural configuration is being negotiated and enacted in specific forms This sites help authorize these social actions and keep them preserved in a way that can be built upon or what can be rebuilt. “…modernity’s enthusiasm for change may in fact be remarkably similar to tradition’s fervent allegiance to continuity” (19).

Besnier approaches modernity from not only a cultural form, but a material as well.  He states that the “ideas of the self are never divorced from materiality” (23).  The self is not only created from the acts that one does. The items, such as clothing and food that one chooses to purchase, is also an act and the result is the material.  He goes on by quoting Wilk: “Just as people use objects to invent tradition, they also use them to invent the future” (24). The negotiations that Besnier analyses are compared in pairs: “past and future, continuity and change, and locality and extralocality…” (24). His main argument is that Tongan modernity is not static or seen as a “monolithic entity”. It is emergent and seen within different sites, which he considers different and varied and in connection to a larger global context.

●    What does modernity mean to you?
●    Do you agree with Already Bruno Latour, when he claimed: “we have never been modern?”
●    Why do you think the Tongans try to keep tradition and modernity apart?

Chapter 2 (Rosalva and Kyle)

In chapter 2, Niko Besnier talked about the anxieties Tongan people are experiencing. These anxieties are the results of both foreign and local influence. Tongan’s modernity can been seen from various aspects of life in the islands from living, consumption, productions, and foreign presence and influence. King George Tupou I became king through the helped of British Wesleyan missionaries. He had conquered many small island or groups under his ruled and this was how his dynasty began. They developed a constitution that was inspired by “Hawai‘i’s constitution, which itself was based on the constitution of the United States” ( Besnier 2011:29). During the colonization of the pacific islands, this was considered the “intrusion of colonial powers and resident foreigners” (Besnier 2011:31) conflicts and other problems arose in the area of Tonga. Tongans believed that their country never really subdued to colonial rule, even though British still interfere in their affairs. According to Besnier under the reign of … “Tupou IV (1918-2006), the country underwent fundamental transformations” (Besnier 2011:31) and the people struggled with the changes that were occurring.

Secondly he mentions the migrations that take place, both eternal and external. Tongans people move from rural to urban areas where they would seek education, medical services, and economic opportunities. One of the main concentrated city and island is Nuku ‘alofa or Tonga. Tongan people not only move between islands, but they also move across international boundaries. The international countries that the majority moves to are New Zealand, Australia, and United States etc. When Tongans migrate to other countries it is often the desire to seek education. This became possible with “Newington College, a Methodist Church school in Sydney founded in 1863,” (Besnier 2011:39) Newington was also responsible for introducing rugby to Tongans. Education is believed to bring upward mobility, but is also responsible for migrations were Tongans seek work in their field and this is scarce in the islands. In today’s world it is harder for Tongans to obtain visas. Tongans that have migrated to industrial countries were not allowed before to claim dual citizenship until 2008, where they were allowed to claim dual citizenship if they were able to demonstrate Tongan descent.

Tongans who have migrated or have relatives in other countries look to them for economic sustainability. Family economic varies according to seasons. An emergency may arise or other obligations that may present themselves, this would make it difficult for the person sustaining them. Some rely on remittances, loans from banks, pawnshops, and communal savings. One example is the “Kava-drinking club” where they “hold fund-raising drinking parties” (Besnier 2011:44) for different purposes such as scholarships. For Tongans who come back from industrial countries they bring back with them new ideas, goods, and symbols, which influence Tongans in the island. Foreigners have also moved to Tonga islands. With this came commerce, some of the most prosperous are the Chinese in retail and shops. There is resentment between the less privileged Tongans and Chinese. The Chinese businesses were among the first to be attacked by looters and arsons.

Agriculture is also of importance to the islands, generating income through crops such as Kava, yams, and bananas. One of the main fruit that was generating money for some time was squash, but stops when it was affected by environmental damage, and mal practices. The downfall of the squash became problematic to the industry and many did not return to it.

Besnier also talked about consumption and that it was more of a desire and ideology to have material goods. Some examples that he use were houses, cars, overweight bodies etc. One of the businesses flourishing is car washes, since dust is common in Tonga. Owning a car has brought with it other problems such as health care since many do not walk anymore. There is a high rate of obesity and diabetes due to lack of exercise. Clothing is another major factor that plays a role in modernity. The wearing of barkcloths was also prohibited forcing them to buy imported clothing, although this was repealed it never came back it is now use for ceremonial use. Besnier believes that “The material life of the country and its diaspora is shaped, not surprisingly, by both world economic conditions and local dynamics. Economic projects are also informed by ideological dynamics, many of which are resiliently continuous with the past” (Besnier 2011:74). I do think that all this themes presented in this chapter play a role in the anxieties people in Tonga are feeling and are experiencing today. With influence from around the globe and the ideology that they need to have all this material good or the desires to have them would bring in happiness and trying to have the same commodities as other industrial countries brings many anxieties. I also add that this creates more self dependent of other countries for goods or material goods, more energy, money, and time is used to achieve this.

1.    Do you think that the people of Tonga realize that the tension between the traditional way and the “modern” ways is what is causing the anxieties that they are experiencing?
2.    What do you think can be done to solve the anxieties that the people are experiencing?
3.    Is there anything that you found interesting with the migration pattern of the Tonga people?

Chapter 3 (Mai and Earl)

In the chapter, Besnier focus on the social aspect of “Fea” and social bonding as well as the kinship aspect of Tongan “fea” markets. The author explores the relationship between the traders or vendors and the customers. Nuku alofa has two major fea market sites known as Tu’imatamoanona and Tofoa. These two sites offer local souvenirs, produce and secondhand objects. Some of these objects are  home grown produce, clothing, home decor, tools, bathroom items, cooking items, and any other thing that is useful and essential to a person’s everyday routine. Most of the fea markets do not offer or sale name brand items, because due to the high import tax it would cost too much for the vendor to sell and make a profit.  Most of the goods are imported from other Tongans that live abroad in other parts of the world. This relationship creates a strong kinship and friendship bonds between the family members. The family members and friends are able to get access to a lot of different goods that are very desirable and are very profitable at the fea market.   Some of the Tongan families have found the niche for outside resources and have acquired the means to get this merchandise into the fea market.  A close knit family connection can really benefit a family that uses the fea market for economic stability and social status.
The Tongans pride themselves in selling and producing local goods. Shirts they might sell have Tongan printed on them or flags all over them.  There is even pottery and baskets that are said to be made local.  Basically all the non produce goods are imports.  Shirts are from China the printed name of Tonga is from Hawaii and the baskets and pottery are from New Zealand.   There are no natural resources on Tonga to make anything locally.  But, the stuff sells to locals and tourist alike.  The Tongan pride is extremely high no matter the product.
The upper class of business owners did not like the idea of the fea market and tried to get them outlawed.  They used all their means to try to stop the creation of them, but failed.  The government allowed them, but tried to put small taxes on the stalls.  Even this failed to a point.  The vendors would move locations and set up in non-government sanctioned areas.  So, instead of a continued fight the upper class finally gave in and now they shop and socialize at the markets.  Even the royal family participates in activities at the fea markets.
Outside of being a location for tourist to buy souvenirs the Tongan people gather and make the fea markets a place of social connection and a place to build stronger family connections that will be beneficial to all parties.  The ritual that is the fea market is an everlasting as well as social building tool to inspire and maintain the national pride amongst Tongans.  The bond they create and establish last for a life time and we help in the economic as well as social success of Tonga.

1.       Would you be a vendor trying to make money or just for social interactions?

2.       Can you compare the Fea market in Tonga to the Cherry auction?

3.       Do you go to the fea market in a family group or do you go by yourself?  Do you socialize with other people outside of buying something?

Chapter 4 (Elizabeth and Fatima)

This book is about the different cultural traditions of the Tongans. Niko Besnier outlines the main encounters of uncertainties with in the Tongan culture in this modernistic era. Besnier uses the method of ethnography to discover how this post-colonial island kingdom seems as if their values and traditions are industrialized. When in fact the truth is revealed through his research where he finds out that the peoples day to day lives are a result of the struggle between the traditions and the advancements of modern society.

Chapter four titled, “When Gifts Become Commodities,” Besnier expresses a local trend that he had witnessed that had been reoccurring. The rise of pawnshops. This might not seem like a big deal, but pawnshops in Tonga were a huge deal because they stood for the entrepreneurial ventures of that area. Besnier visited many pawn shops and witnessed that pawning had several consequences.

There were women’s textiles that were being pawned that hold traditional and ritual value, that are in high demand in Tonga, and among Tongan migrants. The slow production of these traditionally valuable textiles made it difficult to distribute the textiles amongst the people of Tonga. This forced the people to invest in pawn shops. These pawn shops transform the valuables into commodities and change the social relationships between the merchant and customer.

The many consequences of pawning these valuable goods include it becoming a commodity textile valuable by systematically ascribing a monetary value to them in an unprecedented fashion (Besnier, 106). Another consequence is that it changes social relations. The value changes from the giver becoming a customer, and the people’s cultural capital is used as a monetary value of just an object (Besnier, 106).

Pawning is different to the people of Tonga, but it also has some similar roots. In the Tongan culture, the pawning logic is very similar to that of gift exchange. Shame is the emotional tie that pawning and gift exchange encompass which is mentioned throughout the entire book.  This “shame” emotion describes the people who pawn valuables. Not just the individuals who pawn, but also the people who engage in buying it also. The major pawning consequence is that status that a pawnbroker instills in the Tonga community. A pawnbroker accepts material, social, and cultural capital, or at least the access to large capital (Besnier, 107). This is a consequence because a pawnbroker is could be perceived as being ok with having shame that he is making capital off of the poorer people’s valuables.

This chapter reflects that the people of Tonga are having a hard time transitioning from customary responsibilities, to the modernistic ways of capitalism. With a pawn shop becoming an entrepreneurial trend in the Tonga community, to the traditional valuables losing their value by being sold. These are things that are   looked at as “normal” in our society. It is important that this book about the Tonga people can shed light onto cultures that are not “less modern” than our society; but that are at a different level of transitioning to the capitalistic culture that our country is already at.

Chapter 5 (Roxanne and Fiona)

Modern bodies on the runway

This chapter covers beauty pageants, there are two types: Miss Heilala, and Miss Galaxy. They both have the form of traditional, or “Western” beauty pageants, but with some of their own unique elements. “The main objective of the festival is to attract visitors to Tonga’, stated Semisi Taumoepau, Tonga’s Director of Tourism” (Matangi Tonga 1999: 3). Most tourists that visit Tonga are actual Tongans who live overseas. They come back each year to attend the festivals, visit family and pageants. At most events the activities and reading material are geared to the Tongans. In order to obtain any information for these events one has to be a part of the local information network. “with the aim to build-up the self-esteem and confidence of local girls” (Matangi Tonga website, November 7, 2007). This is an interesting statement, since the pageant does the total opposite. During the questioning part of the pageant the contestants are ridiculed if they speak in their own language, which many do, but when speaking English they are praised, if they do not stumble over any words.

While the Miss Heilala pageant is indeed popular, the Miss Galaxy pageant, which showcases transgender males (leiti), is often thought to be more entertaining by the general population. Though the winner of the Miss Heilala pageant receives a number of valuable prizes, to the contestants of the Miss Galaxy pageant, winning is much more beneficial. Often these contestants are marginalized by society and find it difficult to make enough money to support themselves. As such, the prizes for the winning leiti are more valuable than to the middle- and upper-class contestants of Miss Heilala.

Interestingly, both pageants showcase a fusion of the traditional and the modern aspects of Tongan culture, though in different ways. As is stated in the book “While Miss Heilala contestants begin with the modern cosmopolitanism and must perform localness, Miss Galaxy pageants begin with localness…and must perform modern cosmopolitanism”. (159) Many Miss Heilala contestants have lived oversees, or have at least traveled, and as such represent their modernity. However, they are also expected to display their respect for tradition in the in the “island creation” category of the pageant and their performance of tau’olunga. In contrast, leiti are often so marginalized that they have had no opportunity to travel, and as such are the very epitome of local. Paradoxically, they are also associated with modernity as they often incorporate English into everyday conversations. For that reason, they are expected to showcase their modernity in the pageant in multiple ways.

While they do it in different ways, both pageants show the ability to blend modern and traditional aspects of society into a single event, and pose questions to the society as a whole, though those questions are likely not to be wittingly acknowledged.


What is the meaning of the beauty pageants in Tonga society? Miss Heilala? Miss Galaxy?

What are the different forms of modernity that are represented with the pageants?

Why is being gay a taboo, but transgender is accepted in Tonga Society?

Chapter 6 (Tom and Kyle)

Niko Besnier’s informative ethnography brings to light the present conditions in the postcolonial Global South, focusing on the Tongan island. His work highlights the ways in which segments of this small-scale society hold on to different understandings of modernism, and how it coincides with traditional practices in the twenty-first century.  This includes how to express a modern self without opening oneself to criticism.

Bessnier interest in beauty salons was sparked by earlier research on the transgender known as Leiti.    Beauty in Tongan culture is heavily influenced by the transgender.  Leti identifies more with the women found in western society; focusing on cleanliness, avoiding the sun, and taking on outside labor, characteristics that contradict traditional Tongan culture.  The immense effort put into defining their identity as a “Lady” qualifies them as experts within the beauty industry.  According to Besnier the fact that Leti are still men give them an advantage over their female peers including: added hand strength for massaging clients, the ability to work for longer periods of time.

Traditionally Tongan hair represented power; only select persons could cut the hair of a chief.  Before colonization Tongan hair was long and thick, women’s hair was typically a little shorter.  Long hair signifies masculinity a concept that remains true today.  Baldness, although rare in Tongan men is seen as inferior.  According to Besnier, “…references to Western men’s stereotypical ineffectiveness, lack of virility, and unattractiveness” (pg. 166).  Hair style for women is dictated by social restraint.  The social norm for women is to be worn tight while in public, but can be loosened in a private setting, or when mourning the loss of a loved one.  Loosing of the hair is a way for women to resist social control.

Besnier reports that during the 1980’s beauty salons in Nukualofa were obsolete; hair was cut more out of necessity than for style.  By 2008 Besnier counted approximately 41 hair salons operating in the countries capital, not counting the salons in outlying areas.  What caused the sudden emergence in the beauty salon industry? Besnier suggests that opening a salon is a more glamorous and attractive business, unlike a business in food handling (pg. 168).    Another possible cause is the increase in importance Tongan women place on their appearance is consistent with their culture’s modernity, a way of expressing one’s self in today’s world.

The world of beauty salons represents the socio-economic and cultural changes taking place in Tonga.  People residing in rural areas tend to be more traditional and less affluent than those living in urban areas.  In traditional Tongan culture, physical signs of aging are acceptable and should not be concealed.  Aging people find youthfulness through interacting with their children and grandchildren.  Traditional Tongans view the modern women’s attempts at covering up signs of aging as “selfish” and should only be pursued by younger Tongans.  However, for the modern Tongan women, trips to the salon represent their breaking away from the social constraint of traditional Tongan culture.

Chapter 7 (Roxanne and Chan)

Shaping the Modern Body

The Tongan’s bodies have made a lasting impression with outsiders, due to their impressive size; the view point from some of the outsiders range from admiration, criticism, ridicule and alarm. These are some of the thoughts that outsiders had, but to the Tongans this is who they are.
The body is a communal attribute, whose health and abundance indexes telescopically collective wealth and health and whose boundaries with family and village. Large bodies were and are associated in particular with chiefly status; the larger the better, meaning one has more wealth and a higher social status.

In the 1990’s there was a change, health concerns became an issue, like diabetes, high blood pressure, reparatory ailments and other thing associated with being overweight; the king lead by example, he implemented his own fitness program. For the pubic, there were fitness programs, weight loss competitions, and aerobic classes.

Body image is now more than just looking healthy, but it’s all about the international image. This represents the Tongan image to outsiders. Rugby is a well known international sport; the athletes represent the youthful men that portray the image of the Tongans. The criticisms they get about their rugby players are that they are not well discipline and have a wild temper. Tongans are more focus on being seen and known around the world. They are no longer some small unknown island but they do exist and with great power. Now with their name known around the world, they are looking for international opportunity to increase the business of imports.

Not to be confused with their Christianity belief, Tongans are still highly believers in God. There are few young men that go to the gym for the purpose of staying healthy. There are some exceptions; some young Tongan men go to the gym to find their spiritual way to God. They have a great belief that by spending time in the gym, it keeps them from doing other things that can be seen as sinful in the eyes of God.

The Teufaiva gym is the place to be, one can change their body, lifestyle, and diet, depending on what you want to change.  It is also a place where Tongans gather together to socialize especially men, who are bodybuilders or rugby players. Changing the body can be for either sports or for show, like the body builders. They are able to work all day on their bodies and admire each other’s body without being labeled homosexual. In today’s society such things, like admiring other male bodies cannot be done because others may misinterpret ones actions. All this socializing and going to the gym, ties to God and the idea of remaining pure in the eyes of God.
All these contribute to the modern anxieties that Tongans face today about their body image. Tongans spend more time and energy trying to achieve the perfect body for their own benefit as well as the contributing to the international image that they want others to see.

How is body image portrayed in Tongan society?
Are there other things associated with the gym?
Why is the participation in the gym so important to Tongan people?
Is this trend long lasting? If so why, if not why?

Chapter 8 (Vanessa and Jennifer)

In this chapter Niko Besnier focuses on the defection of Tongan people from mainstream denominations to Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity. Besnier analyzes how this contemporary Christian revivalism sweep in Tonga serves as a way to reinvent the Tongan identity for many of its people. Throughout the chapter Besnier shows the contradictions that Tongans face when moving from one denomination to another mainly the distancing from Anga Faka-Tonga” The Tongan Way”. Besnier explains this by showing the different ways in which anxiety arises due to the changes in traditional ways. One example of this is the way in which Tongans dress to church. In mainstream denominations we can see the formal style of dress of its congregants, men wearing the traditional heavy jackets and sober neckties ties and woman wearing the traditional style of dress Pultelaba and Kiekie, while in a Pentecostal and charismatic church we can see a more relaxed tone of dress. The reason behind this is the idea that in these new churches there is no need to focus on simplistic issues like worrying about dress, based on the idea that they are there for the individual relationship with God.

Besnier’s analysis of the defection from mainstream denominations to Pentecostal and charismatic churches through comfortable aspects of dress, praise, and speech into the formal institution of church, is a good way to illustrate Tongans self-identity through their faith. Besnier argues, “…Church affiliation operates as a major signifier of familial and personal identity” (Besnier, 207). A church that gives one the freedom to express their religion in a relaxed setting brings out the best in them, which is Besnier argument; the Pentecostal and charismatic churches accept faith expressions in a more sensual and emotional context. Besnier argues, “Informality is a matter of liberation and personal freedom through the lord, a powerful idea that permeates many aspects of the services and of the congregant’s lives” (Besnier, 221).  Besnier also contrasts between the tithing and gift giving of the mainstream and charismatic churches to help show that people tend to flock towards the more relaxed and open forum of church. This chapter makes it evident that straying away from the up-tight formal ways of the mainstream church helps Tongans to adapt better to their faith more than the structure of being in church. 

Another concept that Besnier focuses on is the concept of why Tongans are attracted to these Charismatic churches. Through these churches are giving Tongans a new way of thinking, material advantages such as a social welfare system and emigration opportunities. One of the main factors that is transitioning Tongans to these churches is the concept of effervescence, getting the livelihood from every sermon is appealing, which is not accomplished with the former. Besnier also focuses on the liberation that many Tongans feel after their switch to charismatic churches, the idea that they are now liberated from the constraints of the former Christian denomination opens up a new way of thinking about all aspects of life. Besnier’s analysis of modernity in religion is a crucial part of this book. His analysis of modernity shows the different ways in which the Tongan community is adapting to the modern changes in religion.

1. How is having denominational diversity in a community like Nukualofa/Tonga important? How does this pertain to modernity?
Our response: In Besnier’s words denominational diversity provides shifts in kinship, power affiliation and opportunity seeking. Which can also provide the resources for upward mobility in the Tongan community.
2. How does the shift from mainstream Christianity to Pentecostal Charismatic Christianity influence identity in the Tongan community?
Our response: Some Tongans see this shift as liberating, they free themselves from the constraints that the former had put on them.Some born again Christians see themselves as being liberated from the traditional concerns related to kinship.
3. How do mainstream congregations ideas on tradition differ from those outside of mainstream?
Our response: People who are outside of the mainstream would rather have a free environment without the traditional pressures. People from the mainstream feel the anxiety when converts alter tradition through joining in Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations.
Discussion Questions:
1. How is having denominational diversity in a community like Nukualofa/Tonga important? How does this pertain to modernity?
Our response: In Besnier’s words denominational diversity provides shifts in kinship, power affiliation and opportunity seeking. Which can also provide the resources for upward mobility in the Tongan community.
2. How does the shift from mainstream Christianity to Pentecostal Charismatic Christianity influence identity in the Tongan community?
Our response: Some Tongans see this shift as liberating, they free themselves from the constraints that the former had put on them.Some born again Christians see themselves as being liberated from the traditional concerns related to kinship.
3. How do mainstream congregations ideas on tradition differ from those outside of mainstream?
Our response: People who are outside of the mainstream would rather have a free environment without the traditional pressures. People from the mainstream feel the anxiety when converts alter tradition through joining in Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations.

Conclusion (Jesteen and Dale)

The conclusion is used as a way to sum up everything that has been presented throughout the book and weave it together into something meaningful.  As reflected in the introduction this book focuses on many different aspects of life, some of which may not even seem connected, however it all leads back to finding meaning in the events of 16/11.  Thus as the author states, all these chapters show that there are many factors surrounding the event, and that factors beyond simple anomie are to blame.
The author also takes the time to de-dichotomize modernity and tradition and makes an argument that the two can and do coexist, however the balance between them is constantly being negotiated by its people.

What is the conclusion used for?

As reflected in the introduction this book focuses on many different aspects of life, some of which may not even seem connected, however it all leads back to what?

The author also takes the time to de-dichotomize modernity and tradition and makes an argument that the two can and do coexist, however the balance between them is what?

The author says in this conclusion that he demonstrated in this book that modernity is a heterogeneous condition (consisting of different and dissimilar parts), with the shape in different societies taking on unpredictable configurations.  He says this isn’t just caused by global engagement, it is global engagement combined with what?

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  • Niko Besnier  On June 14, 2012 at 4:07 am

    Wow, this represents a lot of work! Thank you for your generous summaries. Niko Besnier

  • TheAnthroGeek  On June 16, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Niko, Our students read your work for our advanced ethnography class and truly enjoyed it. Thank you. – Hank Delcore and James Mullooly

    • Niko Besnier  On June 17, 2012 at 1:32 am

      Hank and James, I see you are Fresno State — you will be surprised to hear that I spend quite a bit of time in Fresno. I was just there at the beginning of June, and will be there again around the AAA meetings and probably again towards the end of the year or early next year. If you use the book again I’ll be happy to meet with your students. Niko

  • anthroguy  On June 19, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    Thanks, Niko!

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