Tonga, the South Pacific island kingdom located east of Fiji and
south of Samoa, is one of the world's few remaining constitutional
monarchies. Although Tonga has long been linked to the world system
through markets and political relationships, in the last few
decades emerging regional and global structures have had
particularly intense and transformative effects. Today, because of
greatly increased labour migration, people, money, and resources
are in constant circulation among Tonga, New Zealand, Australia,
and the United States.
In "Persistence of the Gift, " Evans provides a detailed
ethnographic and historical analysis of how, in spite of
superficial appearances to the contrary, traditional Tongan values
continue to play key roles in the way that Tongans make their way
in the modern world. But this ethnography is neither that of a
timeless "ethnographic present" nor of a remote coral atoll.
Instead, like the inhabitants of Tonga themselves, the monograph
begins in the islands, and works outward, tracing how Tongans seek
to meet their own, culturally specific goals, within the
constraints, challenges, and opportunities of the world system.
Tongan culture, like our own, continues to transform in the
face of global change, but the changes experienced by Tongans
everywhere are patterned and managed by the values of Tongan
agents. Both creative and conservative, the emerging
transnationalist system continues to be discernibly and proudly
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