A Fishy Romance; Chiefly Power and the Geopolitics of Desire

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • The story of the Tä‘atu, a fish harvesting technique traditionally conducted in the Tongan village of Ha‘ano, is the closest thing the village has to a founding myth and mystical justification for the traditional estate of its hereditary chief. Here, I consider the tale of the Tä‘atu as told by the 'Hiko' (Saia Fifita). The Tä‘atu records events related to a ritualized method for harvesting skipjack tuna, but also provides a significant standpoint for considering the present-day sustainability of a fishery on which Polynesians have thrived for thousands of years. When connected to local place-names, proverbs, poetry, genealogies, and cross-Polynesian narratives, the story of the Tä‘atu provides fragmentary (yet rich) insights into the significance of desire in past political geographies and ecologies. Desire features as the rationale for a phenomenology of place —landscapes, seascapes, and those who populate the “memoryscapes” — an "ecography" that connects the traditions of the past to the political and environmental exigencies of the present. The events recorded in the Tä‘atu predate and yet still frame contemporary Tongan political and social experience, including the tensions of contemporary chiefly– commoner relations, with their implications for sustainability of the local fishery.

  • Date created
  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Type of Item
    Article (Published)
  • DOI
  • License
    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International