glossary

acculturation | bêche-de-mer | cargo cults | cultural diffusion | kava
nambas | ni-vanuatu | pidgin | prince phillip movement | vanuatu
acculturation In anthropology, acculturation is the influence of one society or ethnic group on another as a result of continuous face-to-face contact. Acculturation, or culture contact as it is also called, is a form of diffusion of culture traits and institutions, see cultural diffusion. It differs from other forms of diffusion, however, in that it involves direct interaction between groups. Although acculturation involves changes in both of the societies and cultures in contact, the term generally is used to refer to changes that occur in a nonindustrial society under the influence of a complex Western society. An example of this is the influence of American culture on the native tribes of North America. Anthropologists often study acculturation resulting from the effect of colonialism and of modern national cultures on nonindustrial peoples. Acculturation became a strong interest of social and cultural anthropologists in the 1930s. In 1935, the Social Science Research Council formed a committee of three noted anthropologists, Melville Herskovits, Ralph Linton, and Robert Redfield, to define the nature and scope of the acculturationprocess. Since then others have refined and extended such studies. Acculturation brought about by governmental programs or agencies has been called "directed culture change."
Charles Wagley
Bibliography: Austin, Clyde N., Cross-Cultural Reentry (1986); Bredy, Ivan A., and Isaac, Barry L., A Reader in Culture Change (1975); Cohen, Yehudi A., Man in Adaptation, 2d ed. (1974); Herskovits, Melville J.,Acculturation: The Study of Culture Contact (1938); Malinowski, Bronislaw, The Dynamics of CultureChange (1961; repr. 1976); Padilla, Amanda M., ed., Acculturation (1980).

Copyright - 1993 Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc.

bêche-de-mer French for trepang or sea cucumber. Marine organism related to starfish and urchins. Trepang is highly prized in Asian cooking. It was one of the big trade commodities throughout the Pacific in the mid 1800's. It is thought that the name for the local Pidgin came from this reference. Indeed, the name given by the ni-Vanuata for trepang is, bislama.

cargo cults Cargo cults are usually revivalist, and in some cases messianic and millenarian, movements found among certain peoples indigenous to Oceania. The word cargo refers to foreign goods possessed by Europeans; cult adherents believe that such goods belong to themselves and that, with the help of ancestral spirits, the goods can be returned to them through magico-religious means. Some cult prophets promise that the arrival of cargo will herald a period of prosperity and well-being.

Such movements represent the efforts of local inhabitants to cope with problems arising from contact with foreign cultures acculturation. They first appeared during the late 19th century among Papua New Guinea and other Oceanic peoples impressed by the abundance of material wealth they saw. The Papuan Vailala Madness of 1919 had iconoclastic elements; like some of the cults, it reflected the merging of Christian missionary teachings with indigenous mythological beliefs. The movements received new impetus during World War II. In a Irian Jaya (western New Guinea) cult of 1942, entire villages were organized into an imitation army, with officers and dummy equipment, in the hope that this would be transformed into real equipment. Followers of John Frum [sic] on Tanna (Vanuatu, former, New Hebrides) built landing strips and warehouses in anticipation of the arrival of air cargo. All such movements draw on traditional custom, experience, and ideology. Essentially, they are attempts to fill the gap between new wants and the available means of satisfying them. The movements, some of which are politically oriented, demonstrate a people's resilience and imagination in coping with new and difficult problems.

Ronald M. Berndt
Bibliography: Burridge, K. O. L., Mambu (1960); Lawrence, Peter, Road Belong Cargo (1965); Mead,Margaret, New Lives for Old, rev. ed. (1975; repr. 1980); Worsley, Peter M., The Trumpet Shall Sound: A Study of Cargo Cults in Melanesia (1957; repr. 1968).

Copyright - 1993 Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc.


cultural diffusion Cultural diffusion is the process by which culture traits or complexes of one society or ethnic group areborrowed by another, resulting in their spread from a center of origin to other distant, geographical areas. Itis, along with independent discovery and invention, an important process of culture change and is regarded by some anthropologists as the predominant force behind culture change. The so-called Irish potato, maize, and tobacco were diffused to Europe and the rest of the world from the New World culture of the American Indian. Similarly, European culture acquired by diffusion coffee from Arabia, refined sugar from the Middle East, pajamas from South Asia, and many other material traits and practices that are often mistakenly viewed as indigenous to the West.

Not all culture traits or complexes are easily diffused to other cultures. Certain material traits are immediately useful and are therefore readily adopted. Often ideas and concepts are not so easily understood or accepted. Christianity or Islam are examples of intricate culture complexes that have diffused widely over the Earth, but their diffusion has resulted from intimate contact between peoples and deliberate propagation. Some culture traits, although known to ethnic groups, are rejected because they are incompatible with the receiving culture. Muslims may know that domesticated pigs exist, but they may not accept the idea of raising pigs because their religious laws prohibit the consumption of pork. Nomadic hunters may adopt simple shifting agriculture, but fail to adopt permanent fields, storehouses, and other accoutrements of intensive agriculture because to do so would require a complete reorganization of their way of life. Often it is merely habit and conservatism that cause a people to reject outright or be slow to adopt available innovations.

Borrowed elements diffused from one group to another usually undergo change or adaptation over time by the people in the receiving culture. Thus, the characteristic saddle and clothing of the American cowboy represented an adaptation of a European culture complex to North American conditions. Many examples of cultural diffusion result from what is called stimulus diffusion, whereby the idea or principle behind a particular culture trait is diffused even though the culture trait itself is not adopted. Stimulus diffusion must have played an important role in the spread of agriculture and animal domestication throughout the prehistoric world. It is likely that nomadic Siberian tribes knew of domestic horses and cattle before they domesticated the reindeer. With today's highly developed communications, innovations spread throughout the world with remarkable rapidity. Thus it is that blue denim jeans, once worn by American farmers, now clothe youths in South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia.

Charles Wagley
Bibliography: Hoogvelt, Ankie M., The Sociology of Developing Societies (1976); Kroeber A.L., Roster of Civilizations and Cultures (1962; repr. 1985); Walker, Gerald B., Diffusions: Five Studies in Early History(1976).

Copyright - 1993 Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc.


kava Often called aelan bia [island beer] in Bislama, kava is the drink preferred by many ni-Vanuatu men. It is made from the roots of the Piper methysticum shrub, or 'intoxicating pepper' as Captin Cook called it. Widespread in the archipelago, this member of the pepper family is related to the betel nut, which itself is common to the islands and countries to the north.

The term kava is similar to the Polynesian ava meaning 'intoxicating drink'. However, it's more likely that kava spread from Vanuatu eastwards, as there is a large number of varieties of the plant growing in the archipelago: 40 in all.


nambas Penis-wrappers or sheaths, worn by most traditionally minded ni-Vanuatu males during cerimonies. Some men from very custom-oriented villages wear them all the time. Nambas are made from dried pandanus or banana leaves and are red, purple or green depending on the vegetable dye used.

ni-vanuatu Indigenous people of Vanuatu.

pidgin A language based on another language, but with a sharply curtailed vocabulary (often 700 to 2000 words) and grammar; native to none of its speakers; and used as a lingua franca, or common language, in a region where different peoples mix but have no common language. Among languages that have given rise to pidgins are English, French, Spanish, Italian, Zulu, and Chinook. In a pidgin, words may change meaning; the English word belong becomes blong ("is") in Chinese Pidgin and bilong ("of") in Melanesian Pidgin. Many concepts are expressed by phrases, for example, lait bilong klaut ("lightning," literally "light of cloud") in Melanesian Pidgin. Borrowings from other languages may be added; Melanesian Pidgin, for instance, has two forms of the word we: mipela, "I and others but not you" (from mi, "I," plus plural ending -pela, derived from "fellow"); and yumi, "we, including you." If a pidgin survives for several generations, it may displace other languages and become the tongue of its region; it is then called a creole, and its vocabulary is gradually reexpanded. Examples include the French-based Haitian Creole; the Spanish-based Papamiento, spoken in the Netherlands Antilles; and Neo-Melanesian, the creolized Melanesian Pidgin of New Guinea.

prince phillip movement
Also an active cargo cult in Vanuatu. The Yaohnanen people of Vanuatu associated Prince Philip with a male spirit who was married to a powerful female spirit. Mr. Wilkins, the British District Agent on Tanna at the time, went off to London on official business, and the men of the village sent a nalnal (club) with him as a present to the Prince. This nalnal was of a design that only a powerful man of high status could own. When the nalnal was presented to the Prince,he politely asked Mr. Wilkins to convey his thanks to the village, and mentioned that he supported their efforts to retain their culture. He also provided the framed signed photograph, [that you always see held by men wearing nambas in the photos that accompany news stories on the cult.] Upon Mr. Wilkins' return to Tanna, he relayed the Prince's message to thevillage in Bislama. Between the effects of Bislama's imprecision, culture clash, and the village hearing what it wanted to, the village men concluded that Prince Phillip confirmed that he agreed that their cultural beliefs were true. Since one of their custom beliefs is that Prince Philip is a supernatural spirit, the village took this as the Prince confirming that he is the personification of the ancestral spirit in question.
Stan Combs, Vanuatu - A Canadian's Perspective
vanuatu Vanuatu, formerly the New Hebrides, independent republic, consisting of a group of about 70 islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. Among the principal islands are Espíritu Santo, Malekula, Efate, Erromanga, and Tanna, which is the site of the Jon Frum cargo cult. The total area is 14,763 sq km (5700 sq mi).

Islands are both of coral formations and of volcanic origin, but mostly the latter and several volcanoes are active. The highest peak, Tabwemasana (1811 m/5942 ft), is on Espíritu Santo. Most islands are forested, and some have fertile soils. The climate is wet and tropical, with an average annual temperature of 25C (77 F). Annual rainfall decreases from 3810 mm (150 in) in the northern part of the group to 2286 mm (90in) in the south. The population is largely Melanesian, with minorities of Europeans, Chinese, and Vietnamese. English, French, and Bislama are the official languages; numerous Melanesian languages are spoken.

The economy of Vanuatu is dominated by subsistence agriculture; food crops include yams, taro, kava, and bananas. Copra is the principal export. Other export crops include cacao and coffee. Fishing and the raising of cattle for export are also important. Tourism is expanding rapidly, and international airports are located at Vila and on Espíritu Santo Island. The national currency is the vatu. Favorable tax laws have made Vanuatu an offshore banking haven.

Vanuatu is a republic, governed under a constitution that came into effect in 1980. The head of state is a president, who is elected to a 5-year term. Executive power is vested in a council of ministers, which consists of a prime minister, who is elected by parliament, and other ministers appointed by the prime minister. Legislative power is vested in parliament, the 46 members of which are popularly elected to 4-year terms.

The islands were first sighted in 1606 by the Portuguese explorer Pedro de Queirós (1560?-1614). They were visited in 1768 by the French navigator Louis Antoine de Bougainville and in 1774 by the British navigator Captain James Cook, who named them New Hebrides, after the similarly rugged Scottish Hebrides Islands. In 1887, the British and French established a joint naval commission to administer the islands. In 1906 the islands became a condominium, a jointly (British-French) administered territory, where each power was to retain jurisdiction over its own citizens. During World War II the United States established a large naval and air base on Espíritu Santo. In June 1980, just before the islands were to receive independence, a short-lived revolt on the island of Espíritu Santo was quelled by British marines. The New Hebrides became independent as Vanuatu on July 30, 1980.

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