Manifestations of Mana

Political Power and Divine Inspiration in Polynesia

By Paul van der Grijp

Today, the political arena in the Pacific - although occupied by presidents, members of parliament, and court justices - is still ruled by chiefs with their authority by tradition, including the notion of mana, which may be defined as divine inspiration or energy that manifests itself in persons, objects, places, and natural phenomena. Polynesian chiefs have mana because of their descent from ancient gods. Other key concepts - such as asymmetrical ideology, mythical constructions of social reality, and social drama - are elaborated and applied to a wide specter of ethnographic examples. This book explores the role of mana in past and present configurations of chiefly power in the Pacific region, where the chief is often seen as the transitional figure between traditional (tribal or feudal) and modern forms of leadership, the latter characterized by rationality and the nation-state with its accompanying bureaucracy. The configuration and reconfiguration of Tongan chieftaincy and kingship are analyzed as an extended case study of the gradual, and sometimes shock-like, integration of a Polynesian culture into a global structure - a nation-state partly imposed from the outside (colonization, missionary influences, etc.), but also generated from within, including state formation and the recent quest for democracy. Together with other Polynesian examples, this forms a relevant illustration of both continuity and change in the configuration of mana and chieftaincy in processes of globalization in the Pacific. (Series: Comparative Anthropological Studies in Society, Cosmology and Politics - Vol. 9)

Publication Date: 4/27/2014
Format: Paper
ISBN: 9783643904966