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Here is a broad survey of the eleven main starch foods of Polynesia and Micronesia that draws together previously scattered information and explores both explicit and implicit expressions of food habits associated with these staples. This study addresses the question of South Pacific peoples retaining their cultural and dietary attachment to traditional food sources despite Westernization. Why does the use of root and tree starches such as taro, yams, and breadfruit persist despite the availability of other foods? What in fact are the local concepts of food and the values attached to it?
Using approaches of symbolic anthropology, social ecology, and household economy, Nancy J. Pollock explores the values of food beyond the Western concept - as a collection of energy inputs the individual body needs to function - to establish the broader role food plays in the world view of certain Pacific Island societies - that of a symbol of power and well-being that structures social life. The author finds that food comprises a carefully categorized set of symbols that help determine thought and action in Pacific societies. Food is a culture pattern, unique to each society. But some patterns are also shared and those shared patterns are due to links in times past. Pollock investigates the cultural mechanisms that have allowed certain distinct features associated with food to remain in the face of many intrusions to those societies.
Extensively reviewed are the sociocultural, archeological-historical, and scientific literature on the topic, ranging from the records of early explorers, missionaries, and pioneer ethnographers to those of modern medical, nutritional, and ethnobotanical researchers, along with observations from the author's personal fieldwork. Among the topics covered are: classification, feasts, food tabus, language aspects, decision making, cooking and preservation technology, land use and control, urban food patterns, food policy issues such as dependency and import substitution, identity issues, local concepts of food and health, the impact of Western concepts, and evaluations of Pacific diets including nutritional value of the starches and epidemiological studies of the relation of food to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Reference tables and an extensive bibliography collate data on societies from Fiji to French Polynesia, the Marshall Islands to Palau.
These Roots Remain provides wide-ranging, even provocative information to a general audience interested in South Pacific peoples and in understanding food habits in a broad theoretical framework. Government officials, development economists, social scientists, and health professionals will find the questions explored here of value in shaping future research.

Publication Details

  • Publisher: Distributed for the Institute for Polynesian Studies by the University of Hawaii Press
  • ISBN-10: 093915451
  • Dewey Decimal: 394.120
  • ECHO Library: 394.120 POL