Language, Rank, Gender, and Social Space in Pohnpei, Micronesia
In Power Sharing: Language, Rank, Gender, and Social Space in Pohnpei, Micronesia, Keating describes her year-long study of language on a small Micronesian Island, Pohnpei. Pohnpeians value their intricate social hierarchy, where each member of society has a unique rank compared to everyone else. Language is a key way people continually recreate and maintain this system in dynamic, everyday practices. Studying how Pohnpeians use language provides keys to understand hierarchy and power more broadly.
Power Sharing shows how hierarchical relationships and rights to differential privileges are communicated not only through language, but other modalities, such as spatial organization and the position of the body. In the Pohnpeian case, honor is collaboratively created through oratory and feasts of honor, where honor is related to social stratification and to positive sentiment. As in other societies’ politeness practices, subordination or self-depletion is rendered as its opposite, a means to personal honor and a way to achieve symbolic elevation through subordination. Power Sharing also shows how Pohnpeian noun classifiers link differences in status to larger culture ideologies about power, and metaphorically to the natural world and a person’s everyday experiential domain.