RECOVERING THE PAST:
Resources, Representations, and Ethics of Research in Oceania
Vienna, 4-6 July 2002
Recovering the Past, the theme of the 2002 ESfO conference, invites a range of interpretations: looking to the past, making old things new and new things old, and in the sense “recovering the past” – i.e. investigating the ways in which corporations, travellers, tourists, and others are repeating all the old classification mistakes that were made in the field of anthropology.
Scholars of Oceanic societies make use of a multitude of resources when reflecting on, reappropriating and recontextualising the past in order to (re)generate the cultural order of things and people in the present. They are seeking unprecedented contexts for their work, and rediscovering theoretical resources that had previously been dismissed as out-of-date. There is still much to learn from an older anthropology. In this sense, anthropologists share a predicament common to many in Oceania who increasingly have to consider what of the old that can be made new (modernity creates a space for tradition, insists that “cultures” appear in a particular form), and to consider what is new that can be made old (how to make sense in conventional terms of changing circumstances).
Knowledge of Oceanic societies can be used to think through universal challenges and vice versa: here, indigenous representations meet Western, scientific, anthropological representations and ethics.