Modern Moralities, Moral Modernities: Ambivalence and Change Among Youth in Tonga
AuthorGood, Mary Katherine
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractYouth in Tonga occupy a particularly fraught social position due to their symbolic status as both the "purveyors of global modernity" and "the future of the nation and tradition." This precarious standing provides the basis for my analysis of the ways in which youth engage in the negotiation of moral frameworks in everyday life. I employ both sociocultural and linguistic anthropological methods and theory to examine how morality is construed across multiple domains of daily life, including language, aesthetic self-fashioning, and social action. Global modernity has brought significant changes in the kinds of goods available and lives imaginable by Tongans, but has also introduced considerable ambivalence about how Tongan culture and tradition can be reconciled with new opportunities. In particular, digital technologies and links with transnational organizations have begun to mediate gendered notions of what it means to be moral in the rapidly changing local context. In a society where strong relationships with kin are still one of the major institutions critical to the fulfillment of basic daily needs and to making extra-local connections for education or work, these changes have led to increasing concern about the maintenance of Tongan "tradition," including moral obligations to extended family. As new technologies, expanded fields of sexuality, and other enticements instill desires for different kinds of lives, the affective and material ties of generous, loving kin continue to keep youth rooted in traditional social networks. Throughout the negotiation of desires and obligations, youth work to present themselves as socially appropriate actors in their daily activities, while casting an eye to the larger global stage. This research stands on the premise that globalization must be understood as a set of processes operating on micro-levels of intimate social practices rather than viewing it as simply a collection of macro-scale economic or political forces. I argue that, as youth re-interpret the meanings of morality in light of global modernity, they subtly shift cultural understandings of emotional and epistemological frameworks as well, changing the balance of power relations between and within the local and global contexts.
Degree ProgramGraduate College