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RESOLVING AMBIVALENCE IN MARSHALLESE NAVIGATION:RELEARNING, REINTERPRETING, AND REVIVING THE “STICK CHART” WAVE MODELS

  • Author(s): Genz, Joseph H.
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License
Abstract

Marshallese wave navigation remains one of the least understood systems of traditional spatial orientation in Oceania. A sharp decline in voyaging during the historic era and continuing reluctance to share the surviving family-based knowledge of the waves has led to ambiguous and sometimes contradictory interpretations, encompassing both local and anthropological ambivalence. In this article, I examine the navigational concepts of two acknowledged experts from different navigation schools in the Marshall Islands who modeled their ideas of the dynamic flow of ocean waves in wooden instructional devices, commonly referred to as “stick charts.” Of central importance is how a navigator worked toward resolving his ambivalence of these concepts by relearning, reinterpreting, and reviving the stick chart wave models. Theoretically, the selectivity of abstract models during practical engagement in the oceanic environment adds to an already powerful dynamic in the complementarity of information processing modes in Marshallese navigation and other systems of way-finding more generally.

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