Paper $34.00 ISBN: 9780226038919 Published July 2006
Cloth $87.00 ISBN: 9780226038902 Published July 2006
E-book $10.00 to $33.99 About E-books ISBN: 9780226530062 Published February 2017 Also Available From

The Meaning of Whitemen

Race and Modernity in the Orokaiva Cultural World

Ira Bashkow

The Meaning of Whitemen

Ira Bashkow

328 pages | 4 halftones, 2 maps, 6 figures, 1 table | 6 x 9 | © 2006
Paper $34.00 ISBN: 9780226038919 Published July 2006
Cloth $87.00 ISBN: 9780226038902 Published July 2006
E-book $10.00 to $33.99 About E-books ISBN: 9780226530062 Published February 2017
A familiar cultural presence for people the world over, “the whiteman” has come to personify the legacy of colonialism, the face of Western modernity, and the force of globalization. Focusing on the cultural meanings of whitemen in the Orokaiva society of Papua New Guinea, this book provides a fresh approach to understanding how race is symbolically constructed and why racial stereotypes endure in the face of counterevidence.

While Papua New Guinea’s resident white population has been severely reduced due to postcolonial white flight, the whiteman remains a significant racial and cultural other here—not only as an archetype of power and wealth in the modern arena, but also as a foil for people’s evaluations of themselves within vernacular frames of meaning. As Ira Bashkow explains, ideas of self versus other need not always be anti-humanistic or deprecatory, but can be a creative and potentially constructive part of all cultures.

A brilliant analysis of whiteness and race in a non-Western society, The Meaning of Whitemen turns traditional ethnography to the purpose of understanding how others see us.
Note on Orthographic Conventions
1. Introduction: The Cultural Construction of Whitemen
2. Cultural World, Postcolonial Situation
3. The Lightness of Whitemen
4. The Bodies of Whitemen
5. The Foods of Whitemen
6. Conclusion: Whitemen Beyond
Review Quotes
Marshall Sahlins

“We are one of the others. Deconstructing the ancient sociology of in-group versus out-group, this finely observed and brilliantly interpreted ethnography of a New Guinea people’s conceptions of whitemen fashions a powerful new paradigm for the study of intercultural relations. Incidentally, damn good reading.”--Marshall Sahlins

Joel Robbins

“In the very best tradition of anthropology, this is a book that will force readers to confront their settled understandings and rethink many things they thought they knew about the cultural construction of racial formations and about whiteness as a global phenomenon. A milestone in the anthropology of the Pacific, this is quite simply a great book to think with.”--Joel Robbins, author of Becoming Sinners:Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society

Rupert Stasch | Anthropological Quarterly
"A nuanced account of a culturally-specific logic of racial categorization and racial evalustion. . . .This thoughtful book deserves a wide audience, and wide published discussion. Its most impressive virtue is that it is at once an accessible, model work of ethnographic interpretation, and a work that breaks new, ambitious ground on important anthropological problems."
Jennifer Roth-Gordon | American Anthropoliogist
"[Bashkow’s] focus on white people as the ’foreign’ makes this an excellent tour of critical race studies and basic anthropology, encouraging students of all levels to think through the social construction of whiteness and the culturally productive boundaries between groups of people."
Aletta Biersack | Pacific Affairs
"Bashkow’s book is thoughtful and thought-provoking, a fine addition to the regional literature and its place within anthropological theory."
Peter Wade | Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
"A rich, detailed, beautifully presented , immensely enjoyable, and thought-provoking book which advances a general and important argument about racial stereotyping and the formation of racialized categories. . . . I would thoroughly recommend this book to everyone interested in the concept of race."
Katherine Lepari | Oceania
"This is not an easy subject matter to handle and Bashkow carries the theoretical load commendably, delivering a thoughtful, engaging and consumately written contribution to the anthropology of race. Overall, his richly detailed and historically grounded account offers an exemplary study not only for scholars but a wider audience interested in the construction of race and the experience of modernity in the Pacific and beyond."
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