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Projects and Publications

Marquesan Phrasebook


Landscape History


Working with the Ancestors: Mana and Place in the Marquesas Islands (2019)
An anthropologist's journey into Marquesan life, wooded valleys and haunting ruins.

Marquesan Phrasebook/Livre des phrases marquisiennes (2010)
Click on the link at left to find out more about the first of its kind, illustrated Marquesan Phrasebook/Livre des phrases marquisiennes (2010), which translates useful phrases between Marquesan, French and English.

Essays, Book Chapters, Interviews, Etc.

"Branches" Plant-Human Quarterly 4 (2022).

"War Clubs and Power in the Marquesas Islands," Antiques Road Show, January 17, 2022.

An interview (in French) with the Tahitian cultural magazine Hiro'a (January 2017), following Emily's presentation of her findings at French Polynesia's Department of Culture and Heritage (Service de la culture et du patrimoine)

"Traditional Resonance: Tapa, Tourism and the Land in the Marquesas Islands", in Tapa, From Tree Bark to Cloth: An Ancient Art of Oceania from Southeast Asia to Eastern Polynesia (2017).

"Le pays natal, la culture et les 'petits trucs': l'art marquisien et le marche exterieur," in Mata Hoata: arts et societe aux iles Marquises, the catalog for the Quai Branly Museum exhibit, 2016.  For non-French-speakers, here is a pre-publication draft version of this piece in English.

Pacific Parallels: Marquesas Islanders and the Essex Crew (Historic Nantucket, Spring 2015).

The Marquesas, My South Pacific Home Away from Home (McGill Reporter, August 26, 2014). Notes from the field! In 2014, Emily wrote a short blurb for the McGill Reporter during her fieldwork.  The color-illustrated article gives a nice summary of some classic island traditions and events.

Public Use, Private Meaning: A Case Study of Two New England Summer Communities (Protected Areas in a
Changing World: Proceedings of the 2009 George Wright Society Conference, 2009).

Academic Articles

"Quilting Power: Mana, UNESCO and Spiritual Sovereignty in the Marquesas Islands," Oceania 92, no. 1 (2022).

"Habitus, Mobilized: Resources and Resistance in the Marquesas Islands," American Ethnologist (2022).

"Feeling "Superstitious": Affect and the Land in the Marquesas Islands," Pacific Affairs 95, no. 1 (2022).

"'Etre dans la modernite, mais pas tellement': patrimoine et developpement durable aux iles Marquises" ('Being in Modernity, but Not Really': Heritage and Sustainable Development in the Marquesas Islands), Journal de la Societe des Oceanistes 153 (2021): 275-292.

"Place, Destabilized: Connecting to Land and Community under Colonialism," Oceania 88, no. 1 (2018): 69-89.

"Troubled Lands: Sovereignty and Livelihoods in the Marquesas Islands," International Journal of Environmental Studies 75, no. 2 (2018): 343-360.

"Quand decouvrir c'est perdre," Bulletin de la Societe des Etudes Oceaniennes, May 2005; ed. Robert Koenig.

"Vanishing Artefacts of the South Seas," Journal of the Polynesian Society,  December 2004.

Doctoral Thesis

Emily spent the year 2013 living and working in the Marquesas, conducting ethnographic research and more than 400 interviews to investigate the relationship between islanders, their land and their past. The full text of her submitted thesis is available here, via the McGill University Library.  A summary report of her findings, in a style similar to a policy brief, can be found here.  

This thesis investigates how perceptions of the past influence one indigenous group’s interactions with, and uses of, the land.  It looks at the confluence of what we generally know as “environment” with history and how this nexus guides both cultural and environmental sustainability in the Marquesas Islands.  Despite terrible historic losses of Marquesan life and knowledge due to colonialism, warfare, depopulation and disease, certain local understandings and expertise have survived through personal transmission across generations.  Over time these emplaced practices on the land have allowed islanders to resist and respond to the extension of territorial power through colonial administration, religion and the market.  Islanders’ ambivalent, spiritual and embodied connections to the ancestral landscapes where they work each day are one example of this power dynamic and its effects.  Sacred meanings in the land play a crucial role in how Marquesans view their past and their heritage, yet they remain unrecognized by such established institutions as the government, the Catholic Church, local cultural organizations and ongoing initiatives for heritage and sustainable development.  By failing to acknowledge the spiritual importance and power of ancestral places, processes of indigenous heritage recognition ironically become a vehicle for the perpetuation of colonial patterns of authority that threaten both the Marquesan world-view and local historic resources.  The resulting tensions illustrate enduring creativity in the way that islanders view and act upon their heritage.  They also suggest alternative strategies for approaching the preservation of historic resources in indigenous and post-colonial communities around the globe.