Cloth $32.00 ISBN: 9780226733685 Published May 1995
Paper $30.00 ISBN: 9780226733692 Published October 1996
An e-book edition will be published.

How "Natives" Think

About Captain Cook, For Example

Marshall Sahlins

How
Bookmark and Share

Marshall Sahlins

328 pages | 3 maps | 6 x 9 | © 1995
Cloth $32.00 ISBN: 9780226733685 Published May 1995
Paper $30.00 ISBN: 9780226733692 Published October 1996
E-book $30.00 ISBN: 9780226733715 Will Publish August 1996
When Western scholars write about non-Western societies, do they inevitably perpetuate the myths of European imperialism? Can they ever articulate the meanings and logics of non-Western peoples? Who has the right to speak for whom? Questions such as these are among the most hotly debated in contemporary intellectual life. In How "Natives" Think, Marshall Sahlins addresses these issues head on, while building a powerful case for the ability of anthropologists working in the Western tradition to understand other cultures.

In recent years, these questions have arisen in debates over the death and deification of Captain James Cook on Hawai'i Island in 1779. Did the Hawaiians truly receive Cook as a manifestation of their own god Lono? Or were they too pragmatic, too worldly-wise to accept the foreigner as a god? Moreover, can a "non-native" scholar give voice to a "native" point of view? In his 1992 book The Apotheosis of Captain Cook, Gananath Obeyesekere used this very issue to attack Sahlins's decades of scholarship on Hawaii. Accusing Sahlins of elementary mistakes of fact and logic, even of intentional distortion, Obeyesekere portrayed Sahlins as accepting a naive, enthnocentric idea of superiority of the white man over "natives"—Hawaiian and otherwise. Claiming that his own Sri Lankan heritage gave him privileged access to the Polynesian native perspective, Obeyesekere contended that Hawaiians were actually pragmatists too rational and sensible to mistake Cook for a god.

Curiously then, as Sahlins shows, Obeyesekere turns eighteenth-century Hawaiians into twentieth-century modern Europeans, living up to the highest Western standards of "practical rationality." By contrast, Western scholars are turned into classic custom-bound "natives", endlessly repeating their ancestral traditions of the White man's superiority by insisting Cook was taken for a god. But this inverted ethnocentrism can only be supported, as Sahlins demonstrates, through wholesale fabrications of Hawaiian ethnography and history—not to mention Obeyesekere's sustained misrepresentations of Sahlins's own work. And in the end, although he claims to be speaking on behalf of the "natives," Obeyesekere, by substituting a home-made "rationality" for Hawaiian culture, systematically eliminates the voices of Hawaiian people from their own history.

How "Natives" Think goes far beyond specialized debates about the alleged superiority of Western traditions. The culmination of Sahlins's ethnohistorical research on Hawaii, it is a reaffirmation for understanding difference.

The University of Chicago Press: Gordon J. Laing Award
Won

View Recent Awards page for more award winning books.
Contents
List of Illustrations
Preface
Introduction
1. Captain Cook at Hawaii
2. Cook after Death
3. Historical Fiction, Makeshift Ethnography
4. Rationalities: How "Natives" Think
Epilogue: Historiography, or Symbolic Violence
Appendixes
Bibliography
Index
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
Google preview here

Chicago Manual of Style |

Chicago Blog: History

Events in History

Keep Informed

JOURNALs in History