For people who live in small communities transformed by powerful
outside forces, narrative accounts of culture contact and change
create images of collective identity through the idiom of shared
history. How may we understand the processes that make such
accounts compelling for those who tell them? Why do some narratives
acquire a kind of mythic status as they are told and retold in a
variety of contexts and genres? Identity Through History attempts
to explain how identity formation developed among the people of
Santa Isabel in the Solomon Islands who were victimized by raiding
headhunters in the nineteenth century, and then embraced
Christianity around the turn of the century. Making innovative use
of work in psychological and historical anthropology, Geoffrey
White shows how these significant events were crucial to the
community's view of itself in shifting social and political
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