The Precarious “Middle Ground”: Exchange and the Reconfiguration of Social Identity in the Hawaiian Kingdom

  • James M. Bayman


Exchange is a vital nexus for the dynamic construction of social identities that people materialize in portable and nonportable artifacts. Social identity and culture change are emergent phenomena and so their study is germane to historians, archaeologists, and other scholars who seek to understand the consequences of European and American colonialism before and during the nineteenth century (Stein 2005). Yet, most archaeological studies of contact and colonialism focus on changes in the technologies, economies, and identities of groups (e.g., communities, societies, and cultures), rather than on individuals, since macroeconomic processes are generally more accessible in the archaeological record (e.g., Bayman 2003, 2007; Carter 1990). While this macroscalar approach provides invaluable insights on the materialization of interaction and identity in colonial settings, complementary studies of individuals are also needed to understand exchange and domestic behavior during periods of culture contact (Flannery 1999, Lightfoot et al. 1998). This microscalar approach promises a more detailed perspective on exchange, personhood (sensu Howard 1990), and its relationship to the construction of social identity. In so doing, archaeology can develop a more refined theoretical perspective on the nature of culture change in postcontact settings.


Social Identity Culture Change Archaeological Record European Contact Documentary Record 
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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Hawai`i at MānoaMānoaUSA

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