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The Rahui

The Rahui: Legal pluralism in Polynesian traditional management of resources and territories OPEN ACCESS

Series: Pacific Series
Copyright Date: 2016
Published by: ANU Press
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    The Rahui
    Book Description:

    This collection deals with an ancient institution in Eastern Polynesia called the rahui, a form of restricting access to resources and/or territories. While tapu had been extensively discussed in the scientific literature on Oceanian anthropology, the rahui is quite absent from secondary modern literature. This situation is all the more problematic because individual actors, societies, and states in the Pacific are readapting such concepts to their current needs, such as environment regulation or cultural legitimacy. This book assembles a comprehensive collection of current works on the rahui from a legal pluralism perspective. This study as a whole underlines the new assertion of identity that has flowed from the cultural dimension of the rahui. Today, rahui have become a means for indigenous communities to be fully recognised on a political level. Some indigenous communities choose to restore the rahui in order to preserve political control of their territory or, in some cases, to get it back. For the state, better control of the rahui represents a way of asserting its legitimacy and its sovereignty, in the face of this reassertion by indigenous communities.

    eISBN: 978-1-925022-91-9
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Foreword (pp. ix-xii)
    Paul D’Arcy

    The indigenous societies of Eastern Polynesia have long held a central place in anthropological and archaeological theory on the political transformation of fragmented and antagonistic chiefdoms into unified, centralised states. Eastern Polynesia is generally understood to include the islands encompassed by contemporary French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Hawai’i, Aotearoa New Zealand, and Rapanui. These small, relatively discrete islands or archipelagos are populated by peoples of common ancestry and have been viewed as ideal social laboratories for fieldwork to study social and political evolution in a comparative perspective. Prominent Pacific scholars in these disciplines used their Eastern Polynesian research to make influential...

  2. Tamatoa Bambridge

    This collection deals with an ancient institution in Eastern Polynesia called therahui, a form of restricting access to resources and/or territories. Strictly speaking, even though several new meanings have been added throughout history,¹ the definition ofrahuihas essentially been the same since the mid-nineteenth century. The Polynesian Lexicon (Pollex) proposes the protoformraafuifor East Polynesia and gives the restrictive definition ‘prohibit’. According to the Pollex,rahuiis variously defined as ‘prohibit’ (Easter Island), ‘prohibition or restriction laid on hogs, fruit … by the chief’, ‘to lay on such a rahui’ (Tahiti), or as ‘a restriction’ (Manihiki–Rakahanga)....

  3. Part I Tapu and rahui:: Traditions and pluralistic organisation of society
    • Bernard Rigo

      In keeping with Gell’s¹ theoretical assumptions about the equivalence between ideas and object, this chapter argues that the notion ofrahuicannot be thought of independently of the cultural logic in which it is inscribed.

      In Oceania, before the sudden appearance of Westerners, the idea of power, particularly political power, was not distinguished from the idea of the sacred. The power of the Polynesian chief (ari’i, ali’i, ariki, ‘eiki), came frommana; that is, it was founded on the ancestrality of the bond with a particular land (fenua). The practice of rahui was and is an effect of these structural...

    • Frédéric Torrente

      This paper is based on vernacular material that was obtained from one of the last of the ancientvanaga, masters of pre-Christian lore, Paea-a-Avehe, of Anaa¹ Island.

      Throughout the last century, in the Tuamotuan archipelago, the technical termrāhuihas been applied to ‘sectors’ (secteurs): specified areas where the intensive monoculture of the coconut tree was established, at that time and still today, according to the principle of letting these areas lie fallow between periods of cropping. The religious reasons for this method have been forgotten. The link between Christian conversion and the development of coconut plantations has changed the...

    • Pierre Ottino-Garanger, Marie-Noëlle Ottino-Garanger, Bernard Rigo and Edgar Tetahiotupa

      Nowadays in Polynesia, a path leading down to the sea or a space on a piece of land may bear a sign that saystapu. In such instances, however, no sacredness is implied; it means simply that it is either private property or off limits to the general public. This modern usage of an ancient Polynesian concept is not a diversion of a lost notion; the word is used because it is relevant for contemporary society.

      What is posited here is the notion of prohibition, which can be found in every culture. The notion of prohibition, however, is valid only...

    • Rod Dixon

      Mangaia is the most southerly of the Cook Islands with a land area of 52 square kilometres. It comprises the highly weathered remains of a volcanic cone that emerged from the Pacific some 20 million years ago and stands 15,600 feet (4,750 metres) above the ocean floor. In the late Pleistocene epoch, tectonic activity resulted in the elevation of the island and reef. Subsequent undercutting of the elevated reef by run off from the former volcanic core has helped create the current formation of the limestonemakateawhich surrounds the island, standing up to 200 feet (60 metres) above sea...

    • Eric Conte

      From 1981, the atolls of Napuka and Tepoto in the Tuamotu Archipelago have been the site of an ethno-archaeological research project on the exploitation of the marine environment.¹ The study, covering a long time span and set in a period of economic and cultural alterations, makes it possible to analyse how the fishermen of the atoll reacted to upheavals and technical innovations. The length and continuity of this project allowed a detailed study to bring to light problems resulting from the contradictions between traditional mentalities and the use of a new technology.

      Traditional lifestyles in the Tuamotu Archipelago, including material...

    • Tamatoa Bambridge

      Scholars considertapuand therahuito be fundamental institutions in pre-European societies across all parts of the Polynesian Triangle.¹ Yet very little is known about them in contemporary Polynesia as far as legal and organisational issues are concerned.Tapuis a term that signifies an object, person or location that was ‘marked’, ‘contained’, ‘restricted’, or ‘put aside’. In one sense,tapuis the state of a person, a thing, a place wheremana(divine power) is present. A second meaning signifies ‘forbidden to certain categories of persons in certain contexts’. This term may have been translated as ‘sacred’, but...

  4. Part II Rahui today as state-custom pluralism
    • Christian Ghasarian

      The management of natural resources implies conceptions of ownership and property that provide precious information on the way a society perceives itself. Established moralities on the matter are sometimes sustained by a sacredness that reinforces the values and principles at stake. In the case of ideological and environmental change, the sacred conceptions most of the time adjust to new circumstances and become part of the cultural dynamics. An invisible and superior force, associated with the past and the ancestors, legitimates the new social order.¹ Therefore, compliance with sacred models can ensure protection in the present life. In this essay, I...

    • Lorin Thorax

      Fakarava is the second largest atoll of the Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia. The atoll encompasses a 60-kilometre-long and 25-kilometre-wide lagoon. The surrounding reef only forms a barrier to the ocean in the north-east and the south-east. The rest of the periphery consists of a partially emerged coral plate, which leaves the lagoon in direct contact with the ocean by manyhoa(small passages between the coral plates). The atoll contains two reef passes (deep and wide openings of the reef, where the most important flow between the lagoon and the ocean occurs). The first one, Garuae, in the north-west,...

    • Charlotte N. L. Chambers

      Tongareva is the northernmost and largest atoll in the Cook Islands and is often referred to as Penrhyn after the first European sighting of the atoll in 1788 when the crew of the shipLady Penrhyn‘saw a low flat island, bearing east to north east, seven or eight miles distant’.¹ The first sustained period of European contact with Tongareva occurred in January 1853 when an American brig, theChatham, was wrecked off the south-west coast. E.H. Lamont spent a year on the island as a result of this wrecking, and later wrote an account of his time inWild...

    • Alan M. Friedlander, Janna M. Shackeroff and John N. Kittinger

      Marine resources were important to the ancient Hawai’ians for subsistence, culture and survival. But in recent times, intensive fishing pressure, particularly in more populated areas, has led to substantial declines in many highly prized and vulnerable species.² Factors contributing to this include a growing human population, destruction of habitat, introduction of new and overly efficient fishing techniques (e.g. inexpensive monofilament gill nets, SCUBA, Global Positioning System or GPS), and loss of traditional conservation practices.³ Further, there is poor compliance with state fishing laws and regulations and insufficient enforcement.

      Owing to the failures of conventional marine management, government and local communities...

    • Jacinta Ruru and Nicola Wheen

      In this chapter we examine the place and nature ofrāhuiin the law of Aotearoa New Zealand. The expressionrāhuiis used in legislation in New Zealand to describe certain conservation areas (whenua rāhui, wahirāhui) and associated conservation agreements (Nga Whenua Rāhui kawenata), and to denote particular means or measures that can be utilised for conservation or sustainability purposes. By so adopting the idea or expression ofrāhui, New Zealand law can be seen to be drawing on one of the three original uses ofrāhui: to replenish resources. In this sense,rāhuican be defined as a...

    • Alexander Mawyer

      On Mangareva, in French Polynesia’s Gambier Islands, the legitimacy and warrant of the state to regulate and oversee pearl cultivators in the exploitation of local marine resources is being contested. This chapter considersra’ui, a traditional Mangarevan conception of governance in the regulation of common resources, to bring into focus a contemporary response to the modernising state and the actions of one branch of its executive, the Ministère de la Perle, which is tasked with administering the important business of cultured pearls. These contestations draw attention to contemporary ambiguities in the character and qualities of resource rights and labour, particularly...

  5. Tamatoa Bambridge

    Our analysis of therahuiowes much to the theoretical and methodological contribution to the study of legal pluralism in common law and in Germano-Roman contexts, the conditions that encourage the preservation of therahuiin various contemporary situations, and the authors’ contributions to the research on the legal pluralism theory combined with anthropologically informed fieldwork.

    This collection makes two major contributions to legal pluralism theory on both conceptual and methodological levels. First, all authors demonstrate that legal pluralism can and does occur without the presence of a modern centralised state, and that it fulfils a need and does so...

  6. Jean Guiart

    Therahuimaybetheinstitution belonging to island civilisation that has been least coloured with Western romanticism. Each author in this volume agrees more or less on the same features, the same rules and the same consequences. The same vegetable symbol is fastened to a coconut trunk, or built outside it, with the same coconut at different stages of maturity. More important, the story told about it is globally the same in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. This could mean that therahuiis in effect at the centre of all things, which conclusion may be regarded as slightly adventurous.