Peoples of the Pacific
Cultural Impact Assessment
Over the past six years, a private investment group in the Peoples Republic of China
called Exhibit and Travel Group (ETG) has negotiated with the state government of Yap in the
Federated States of Micronesia to initiate the development of a massive tourism project. ETG’s
plans called for, among other things, up to ten luxury hotels with capacity for thousands of guests
(initially as many as 10,000 by 2020), a state of the art convention center, casinos and
entertainment centers, and between 8 and 15 golf courses. Additionally, the Yap State Airport
would be expanded to handle flights directly from China. These plans would displace Yapese
villagers who upon leasing their land would apparently be relocated to inland “native
communities” built by ETG. Note that sale of Yapese land to non-Yap state citizens is illegal.
In January of 2012, the Yap State Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding
allowing plans to continue, and both a Business Permit and International Investment Permit were
later issued to ETG. While the scale of this project on the tiny island complex of Yap is
particularly unprecedented, tourism has become a central part of the economies of many Pacific
Island nations and not without innumerable effects.
Yet these plans have not gone unchallenged. Opposition from large portions of the
Yapese population, the Yap Women’s Association, and the Yap State Legislature (which would
need to legalize gambling if casinos were to operate) have forced the Yap state office of the
Governor and ETG to scale back the project considerably. ETG has considered scrapping the
golf courses and casinos and limiting hotel space to 1500 rooms. Still, much opposition
remains, and while ETG has secured many lease agreements, much remains in doubt.
Write a 5 page double-spaced essay discussing the project and its potentialcultural
impacts. What would the loss of land in home villages to long term leases mean to Yapese men
and women? What effects would accompany relegating Yapese to the role of cultural performers
for Chinese tourists? What issues would such commodification and the appropriation by
corporate interests have for local control over cultural meaning? It is important to understand
that these issues are not simple matters of a “traditional” society confronting “modernization”.
As should already be clear from readings this quarter and discussions in class, Yapese have been
deeply involved in cash and wage economies for generations, and Yapese “traditions” have long
incorporated imported commodities and cash. Yapese employ and integrate multiple logics to
guide their practices and craft viable lives in the 21st Century. Yet the nature and scope of the
ETG project has the potential to bring about sweeping transformations.
Since the issues are many and your paper is short, you will need to focus on cultural
issues that bear on Yapese lives, social relations, and perspectives. I will want to see you
contextualize these matters given discussions in readings and lecture over the quarter. Make
points that support your overall conclusions and recommendations to the Yap State government.
The internet will provide sources for details of this project, but also support your arguments with
material drawn from published ethnographic work on Yap (assigned readings on the Chambri,
Yap, Tonga, Hawaii, and the Trask and Hau’ofa articles will give you much conceptual
ammunition, as also will the “No Taro in This Market” chapter from James Egan’s dissertation
included in the course packet). You are expected to cite your sources in the text of your paper
and include a “References Cited” section at the end (which doesnot count toward the 5 pages). I
will provide you with a citation guide in upcoming lectures. Your papers should be well written
and well organized to make your points. Your grade will reflect your ability to present relevant
issues that are well theorized in terms of class discussions in lecture and readings. Your papers
are due Dec 6th (note that this is two days beyond the date set in the syllabus – I thought you’d
like the extra time!). While you will hand in a hard copy to me, an electronic version will also
be submitted to Turnitin.com as per instruction I will provide in upcoming lectures.
Peoples of the Pacific