Western Dress and Ambivalence in the South Pacific


By Michael Sturma, published 31st May 1997

Michael Sturma examines an aspect of the cultural impact of the West in the South Pacific. ‘States of undress, or the partially clad body, invite particularly ambivalent responses.’ One of the main preoccupation’s of early European visitors to the South Pacific was the nudity or partial nudity of the indigenous peoples they encountered. It was often nudity, more than race, which determined the dominant metaphors in European descriptions. Thus early writers frequently compared the local people to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, to Roman and Greek statuary or to pagan gods.

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