Unity of Heart: Culture and Change in a Polynesian Atoll Society by Keith  Chambers, Anne  Chambers
283 pages, $36.95 list
self-contained study guide
eBook availability
Unity of Heart
Culture and Change in a Polynesian Atoll Society
Thousands of years ago, Polynesian voyagers discovered and settled Nanumea atoll, a tiny cluster of coral islets in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The community prospered, first evolving into a traditional culture finely tuned to the atoll’s limited environment and then weathering new changes imposed by missionaries, colonial officials, and Westernization itself. Now one of eight separate island communities comprising the modern Pacific nation of Tuvalu, Nanumea faces new challenges: rising sea levels, globalization, and massive social and economic changes.

Using personal stories that evoke the difficulties and excitement of fieldwork, Keith and Anne Chambers draw on more than twenty-five years of ethnographic research in Nanumea to craft an engaging account of Nanumean culture and social organization. Readers will come to appreciate how the community’s intense sharing obligations, service-oriented chieftainship, and a flexible system of extensive kinship reckoning define a lifestyle that differs fundamentally from modern Western society.

Film Resource: Disappearing of Tuvalu: Trouble in Paradise (Christopher Horner, dir.) is available for sale or rental from Documentary Educational Resources (www.der.org).
“. . . an interesting blend of the old and the new in anthropology: in part it is classical ethnography and in part a reflexive account of fieldwork and the positioning of the ethnographers. As an undergraduate textbook this study would work well: the reflections on fieldwork make the densely packed ethnographic information accessible and engaging.” — The Journal of The Royal Anthropological Institute

“The fieldwork on which the book is based spans twenty-five years, providing an excellent breadth of information to inform comment on present-day Nanumea and, more broadly, Tuvalu as a whole. It is not only informative, but also a ‘good read’!” — The Australian Journal of Anthropology

“The authors draw on more than 25 years of fieldwork to depict a society in transition. . . . Dotted with personal anecdotes, the volume gives a good account of anthropological fieldwork, illustrating how rapport is awkwardly achieved, how data are gathered, and how understandings are gradually shaped. The reader is encouraged to develop an empathetic understanding of another way of life.” — Choice
Table of Contents
1. Encountering Nanumea
2. “Of the Island”
3. Tefolaha in the Cookhouse
4. Emerging from the “Days of Darkness”
5. Coral and Sand
6. Something for All
7. Family Matters
8. Community
9. Challenges of the Twenty-First Century
10. Unity of Heart
Glossary of Tuvaluan Words