American Anthropologist

Literacy and the Notion of Person on Nukulaelae Atoll



Written discourse produced on Nukulaelae atoll of Western Polynesia falls principally in two categories: personal letters and religious sermons. Personal-letter writing is a highly affective communicative context, in which the vulnerable aspects of the person are highlighted. Sermons, in contrast, elaborate authoritarianism and directness. The divergent characteristics of Nukulaelae literacy practices are best understood in terms of their relationship to contexts of use, particularly to the notion of person articulated through them.