Pursuing Respect in the Cannibal Isles
Americans in Nineteenth-Century Fiji
The United States in the World
Published by: Cornell University Press
352 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 mm, 29 b&w halftones, 3 maps
- ISBN: 9781501761690
- Published: October 2021
Full of colorful details and engrossing stories, Pursuing Respect in the Cannibal Isles shows that the aspirations of individual Americans to be recognized as people worthy of others' respect was a driving force in the global extension of United States influence shortly after the nation's founding.
Nancy Shoemaker contends that what she calls extraterritorial Americans constituted the vanguard of a vast, early US global expansion. Using as her site of historical investigation nineteenth-century Fiji, the "cannibal isles" of American popular culture, she uncovers stories of Americans looking for opportunities to rise in social status and enhance their sense of self. Prior to British colonization in 1874, extraterritorial Americans had, she argues, as much impact on Fiji as did the British. While the American economy invested in the extraction of sandalwood and sea slugs as resources to sell in China, individuals who went to Fiji had more complicated, personal objectives.
Pursuing Respect in the Cannibal Isles considers these motivations through the lives of the three Americans who left the deepest imprint on Fiji: a runaway whaleman who settled in the islands, a sea captain's wife, and a merchant. Shoemaker's book shows how ordinary Americans living or working overseas found unusual venues where they could show themselves worthy of others' respect—others' approval, admiration, or deference.
Introduction: Why Go a Fiji Voyage?
1. Butenam: Knowledge
2. Mata ki Bau: Respect Vakaviti
3. Chief of All the White Men: Character
4. By a Lady: Moral Authority
5. Marama: Social Class
6. This Hell upon Earth: Competence and Wealth
7. Tui America: Power
Epilogue: Continuity and Change in U.S.-Fiji Relations
Appendix A: Sandalwood Voyages
Appendix B: Bêche-de-Mer Voyages
Appendix C: Foreign Naval Vessels in Fiji to 1860
"Full of colorful and detailed stories, this study reveals the personal motivations that propelled 19th-century American expansions in the Pacific world. It is an excellent supplement to existing scholarship."~Choice
"Shoemaker is a master at microhistory. Delving into ship logs, captains' journals, merchant reports, and consul papers, Shoemaker recreates the voyages and passengers embarking to Fiji in the mid-nineteenth century."~Diplomatic History
"In her fascinating new book, Nancy Shoemaker reveals [how]Americans' activities on Fiji had the cumulative effect of extending the global reach of American capitalism and cultural imperialism."~The New England Quarterly
"Pursuing Respect in the Cannibal Isles is meticulously researched: Shoemaker makes use of a truly impressive array of sources ranging from diaries and letters to ships' logbooks, official Customs Service Records, consul records, and merchant reports. The book is also masterfully written. Shoemaker takes a close, microhistorical approach to the study of her subjects, conveying in nuanced detail their individual histories, ambitions, and trajectories."~Journal of the Early Republic
"Why, in the first half of the nineteenth century, did successive Americans undertake an arduous journey to Fiji, reputedly populated by 'cannibals'? Nancy Shoemaker compellingly argues that to answer this question, historians must foreground individuals' pursuit of 'respect.' Focusing on three New Englanders, Shoemaker weaves an intricate narrative demonstrating how the pursuit of respect drove often seismic changes, replete with detail about individual lives, Pacific commerce, and Fijian politics."~American Nineteenth Century History
"In addition to being an exceptional scholar of Native American history, Nancy Shoemaker is among the most ingenious historians of nineteenth-century Americans' engagement with the world. Her scholarship is characterized by scrupulous research and incisive conceptual frameworks that not only enliven her own work but also promise to enrich the scholarship of others. This superb book builds upon her most recent contributions to this endeavor."~Journal of American History
"[A] welcome study offering an intimate, personality-driven lens on the US in the Pacific and provides new layers and nuance to a period of significant upheaval in Fiji's 19th-century history."~The Journal of Pacific History
- John Lyman Book Awards