No Family Is an Island: Cultural Expertise among Samoans in Diaspora - Expertise: Cultures and Technologies of Knowledge (Hardback)Ilana Gershon (author)
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Government bureaucracies across the globe have become increasingly attuned in recent years to cultural diversity within their populations. Using culture as a category to process people and dispense services, however, can create its own problems and unintended consequences. In No Family Is an Island, a comparative ethnography of Samoan migrants living in the United States and New Zealand, Ilana Gershon investigates how and when the categories "cultural" and "acultural" become relevant for Samoans as they encounter cultural differences in churches, ritual exchanges, welfare offices, and community-based organizations.
In both New Zealand and the United States, Samoan migrants are minor minorities in an ethnic constellation dominated by other minority groups. As a result, they often find themselves in contexts where the challenge is not to establish the terms of the debate but to rewrite them. To navigate complicated and often unyielding bureaucracies, they must become skilled in what Gershon calls "reflexive engagement" with the multiple social orders they inhabit. Those who are successful are able to parlay their own cultural expertise (their "Samoanness") into an ability to subtly alter the institutions with which they interact in their everyday lives. Just as the "cultural" is sometimes constrained by the forces exerted by acultural institutions, so too can migrant culture reshape the bureaucracies of their new countries. Theoretically sophisticated yet highly readable, No Family Is an Island contributes significantly to our understanding of the modern immigrant experience of making homes abroad.
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Number of pages: 208
Weight: 397 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 16 mm
"Gershon provides a fine-grained analysis of distinctions within Samoan migrant societies that emphasise second-generation differences and the relationship between more established migrants and those they refer to pejoratively as 'fobs. . . .' Avaluable [contribution]. . . to the gradually expanding literature on the Polynesian diaspora."-John Connel,Journal of Pacific History(2013)
"No Family Is an Island is innovative, ethnographically and comparatively rich and compelling, and theoretically subtle and invigorating. Ilana Gershon has an imaginative and sophisticated sense of problems-and of those sites, events, and practices that provide particularly revelatory points of entry into wrestling with those problems. This book is a major contribution to the Samoan literature, to the ethnography of neoliberalism in situ and in practice, and to the anthropology of bureaucracies and of policy. It is a remarkable achievement."-Donald L. Brenneis, University of California Santa Cruz
"No Family Is an Island is a benchmark work in the study of migration and the study of the Pacific as well as an important contribution to anthropological theory. Focusing on the constitution of Samoan migrant families, Ilana Gershon shows how they negotiate what will count in their lives as the 'cultural' and the `acultural' or `universal' in the realms of gift and market exchange, religion, the raising of children, and interaction with the state and those who provide services on its behalf. At once approachably written and intellectually rich, this book will be widely read in anthropology, sociology, and migration studies, and it should transform the way the relationship between migration and culture is understood in these fields going forward."-Joel Robbins, UC San Diego, author of Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society
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