Alan Howard

Alan Howard, PhD

Professor Emeritus

Research Interests
Current Research
Selected Publications


I received all my university degrees from Stanford; a B.A. in Sociology (1955), an M.A. in Anthropology (1959), and a PhD. in Anthropology (1962). My research has been concentrated in Polynesia, particularly on the island of Rotuma (Fiji). I also conducted a three-year study of an Hawaiian-American community on Oahu in the 1960s. In recent years my wife, Jan Rensel, and I have been studying the Rotuman diaspora, including Rotuman communities in Fiji, New Zealand, Australia and Hawai'i. I came to Hawai'i in 1963 and have been here ever since.

General Interests:

political economy, socialization, cultural identity, transnationalism, Polynesian ethnology, ethnographic film and video, virtual communities.

Current Research:

My current research has focused on Rotuman communities around the globe. I am especially interested in the problem of maintaining a globally scattered culture, and the role that cyberspace can play in providing arenas for virtual communities. I have been devoting a good deal of time to constructing and maintaining a web site for the pan-Rotuman community as a location for electronic interaction. To visit the Rotuma Website, click here.

Selected Publications:

For an updated vitae and downloadable pdfs of all my journal articles and book chapters, please go to

2015 Ethnography in the Digital Age (with Alex Mawyer). In Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences: An Interdisciplinary, Searchable, and Linkable Resource, edited by Robert A. Scott and Stephen M. Kosslyn. New York: Wiley Online Library.

2012 Issues of Concern to Rotumans Abroad: A View from the Rotuma Website. In Pacific Islands Diaspora, Identity, and Incorporation, edited by Jan Rensel and Alan Howard. Special issue, Pacific Studies 35 (1/2) [April/August].

2007 Island Legacy: A History of the Rotuman People (with Jan Rensel). Victoria B.C. Trafford Publishing.
2006 Presenting Rotuma to the World: The Making of The Land Has Eyes, Visual Anthropology Review 22(1):73-95.

2004 Restraint and Ritual Apology: The Rotumans of the South Pacific, in Keeping the Peace, edited by Graham Kemp and Douglas P. Fry. New York: Routledge. pp. 35-52.

2004 Rotuman Identity in the Electronic Age (with Jan Rensel), in Shifting Images of Identity in the Pacific, edited by Toon van Meijl and Jelle Miedema. Leiden: KITLV Press.

2004 Contextualizing Histories: Our Rotuman Experience (with Jan Rensel), Pacific Studies 27 (3/4):11-36.
2004 Introduction: Back in the Field Again: Long Term Fieldwork in Oceanic Anthropology (with John Barker), Pacific Studies 27 (3/4):1-10.

2002, in Handle with Care: Ownership and Control of Ethnographic Materials, edited by Sjoerd R. Jaarsma. University of Pittsburg Press. ASAO Monograph No. 20.

2001 Where Has Rotuman Culture Gone? And What is it Doing There? (with Jan Rensel) Pacific Studies 24 (1/2):63-88.

1999 Pacific-Based Virtual Communities: Rotuma on the World Wide Web. Contemporary Pacific 11(1):160-175.

1996 Spirits in Culture, History, and Mind. co-editor with Jeannette Mageo. New York: Routledge.

1989 Developments in Polynesian Ethnology (co-editor with R. Borofsky). University Press of Hawaii.
1988 Hypermedia and the Future of Ethnography. Cultural Anthropology 3:304-315.

1974 Ain't No Big Thing: Coping Strategies in a Hawaiian-American Community. Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii.

1970 Learning to Be Rotuman. New York: Columbia Teachers College Press.