Kava and ethno-cultural identity in Oceania

Indigenous peoples Cultural identity Fiji


Garibaldi and Turner (Ecol Soc 9:1, 5, 2004) explain the role that particular plants play in facilitating the shared ancestry, practices, and social experience of an ethnicity. This can include spiritual connections, cultural expression and practice, ceremony, exchange, linguistic reflection, socialization, and medicinal and/or dietary systems. They term these plants “cultural keystone species” and icons of identity, plants that if removed would cause some disruptions to the cultural practices and identity of an ethnic group. Undoubtedly, kava (Piper methysticum) is the cultural keystone species for many Oceanic and Pacific peoples, a “differentiating element of common culture” (Zagefka, Ethnicity, concepts of. In: Smith AD, Hou X, Stone J, Dennis R, Rizova P (eds) The Wiley Blackwell encyclopedia of race, ethnicity, and nationalism. West Wiley, Sussex, pp 761–763, 2016) informing their ethno-cultural identity. That influence is also extending to new non-Pacific Island user groups who have embraced elements of kava ethno-cultural identity in what has been termed diasporic identity formation in reverse. This chapter will discuss kava with specific reference to ethnic positionality in Fiji while recognizing the tensions from inside and outside the region that support and threaten the continuance of the kava drinking tradition.

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The Palgrave Handbook of Ethnicity


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