1994 Basel Conference


Basel, 15-17 December 1994


Dear colleagues,

We are looking forward to meeting you all in Basel.

The Basel conference of the new European Society for Oceanists (ESO) will have the principal objective to provide scientists with the opportunity to present current research, exchange information between researchers and between disciplines, and to stimulate the development of new projects and the formulation of new questions. Two years ago, the “First European Colloquium on Pacific Studies” was held in Nijmegen. At that time, it was enthusiastically decided to set up a professional association as a forum for Oceanic researchers, and to hold biennial conferences. And so it came about. The European Society for Oceanists (ESO) was founded as a professional and interdisciplinary association for researchers within and outside Europe. It addresses researchers with a regional interest in Oceania, meaning Micronesia, Melanesia, Polynesia and Australia. As a first outcome of the new association, we now hold this conference. After Nijmegen, it is the second conference, but the first ESO conference proper, thus the Basel conference. The board of ESO met several times and debated various themes considered to be relevant. The board of ESO now proposes Knowing Oceania: Constituting Knowledge and Identities. We feel that this theme is indeed appropriate. Appropriate for Oceania which is in a process of rapid transformation where traditional knowledge is being lost – and even suppressed – and where new knowledge is constituted thereby assessing new identities. And appropriate for Basel, too, which has a long tradition of documenting Oceania with the emphasis on fieldwork and local knowledges. Here was the starting point of numerous researchers and collectors setting out for Papua New Guinea and Melanesia, and recently to Micronesia and Polynesia as well. We were pleasantly surprised by the growing numbers of ESO-members and impressed by the large numbers of participants and papers. This vivid response led to an unquestionably very full schedule for our conference. But we still hope that the informal sections will leave you with enough time for making new contacts and confirming those already in existence. During the whole conference, there will be a registration desk and a conference secretariat in the Institute of Ethnology, University of Basel, Münsterplatz 19, and you will find us there at any time. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We wish you a pleasant stay in Basel.


Jürg Wassmann, Verena Keck, Ingrid Bell

The present ESO Board Members are:

Jürg Wassmann (chair), Verena Keck (deputy) (Switzerland)
Paul van der Grijp, Ton Otto (The Netherlands)
Jonathan Friedman, Ulla Hasager (Scandinavia)
Eric Hirsch, Michael O’Hanlon (Great Britain)
Dieter Heintze, Gunter Senft (Germany
Gabriele Weiss (Austria)
André Iteanu, Pierre Lemonnier, Serge Tcherkézoff (France)
Anna Paini, Teresa del Valle (Southern Europe)


This conference would not have been possible without the generous financial support of:

The Swiss National Fund for Scientific Research (Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung)
The Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences (Schweizerische Akademie der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften)
The Max Geldner-Stiftung, Basel
The Fonds zur Förderung von Lehre und Forschung der Freiwilligen Akademischen Gesellschaft, Basel
We wish to thank the anthropology students as well as our secretaries and colleagues for their assistance during the conference. We are of course also grateful for the support and help of numerous people from the Institute of Ethnology, the Museum of Ethnology and the Swiss Museum of European Folklife, Basel, before and during the conference.