Accepted Paper:

The anthropology of night-scape: the significance of starry night in the Pacific  


Akira Goto (Nanzan University)

Paper short abstract:

In contrast to previous landscape theory of "daytime", this paper explores the significance of landscape experienced during nighttime, i.e. night-scape. In particular, discussions will be made of stars as components of night-scape for the navigation and season-reckoning in the Pacific islands.

Paper long abstract:

Landscape is the world out there as understood, experienced, and engaged with through human consciousness and active involvement. Although dynamic nature of human-landscape relations has been well noticed, the discussion still remains a static land-oriented view. Also landscape has been examined a priori as experienced during daytime.

Pacific islanders have been engaged with sea constantly, and to them seascape is the key framework for everyday life. In the middle of the sea, the navigators do not see land but they see wave, splash, birds, aquatic animals, and so on. Everything in the seascape is thus in a constant flux. Moreover, one of the most important aspects of the indigenous navigation was observing the movement of stars during night.

In addition, archaeologists have disclosed the relationship between the direction of archaeological structures and particular cardinal points, such as solstices and equinoxes of the sun. There are recent opinions that the structures were directed not toward the sun but toward constellations. Confusions may have come from the fact that, in the tropical areas, bearing of June solstice sunrise/sunset is close to the rising/setting Pleiades, that of equinox sunset/sunrise is close to rising/setting Orion, and so on. Since there are much more legends and folk knowledge concerning stars than those of sun in the Pacific islands, the author argues that we should shift our gaze from the fixed and diurnal landscape to the fluid and nocturnal seascape and "cosmo-scape" that incorporate moving constellations in the sky.

Panel P048
Landscape as cultural production by social practices in space and time (CLOSED - 5)