ANTHROPOLOGY BETWEEN EUROPE AND THE PACIFIC: VALUES AND THE PROSPECTS FOR A RELATIONSHIP BEYOND RELATIVISM

15 May 2018

I am greatly honored by the opportunity to deliver the Sir Raymond Firth Memorial Lecture this afternoon. Greatly honored and, if I am to be honest, a little daunted. Daunted first of all by the towering legacy of Sir Raymond Firth himself, a man who maintained a commitment to the study of the Pacific Islands over the entire course of his very long life and one of only a handful of people who can truly be said to have helped lay the foundations for the still relatively young discipline of anthropology. But daunted also by the work of those in attendance here, so many of whom I am sure have forgotten more about life in the Pacific Islands than I will ever be able to claim to know. And of course when it comes to that other key term of the conference title, Europe, I have even more firmly to proclaim comparative ignorance – having hardly ever lived in Europe, and only recently moved to a nearby island that, as we all know, has its own suspicions about those whom Epeli Hau’ofa (2008, 32), to whom we will return shortly, calls “continental men”. So it is not hard to see why, when faced with addressing you in memory of Sir Raymond Firth at a conference entitled “Europe and the Pacific”, my deep excitement could not help but be accompanied by a profound sense of my own limitations.