Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Roger M. Keesing Papers
Identifier/Call Number: MSS 427
Mandeville Special Collections Library
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
Language of Material:
36.7 Linear feet
(45 archives boxes, 21 card file boxes, 12 records cartons, 17 oversize folders)
Date (inclusive): 1962 - 1993
Papers of cultural and linguistic anthropologist Roger M. Keesing, whose area of specialization was the culture history and
language of the Kwaio people of the island of Malaita in the Solomon Islands. The Keesing Papers represent the research and
materials generated from his fieldwork with the Kwaio of Malaita, and to a lesser extent, his research in Himalayan villages
of India. The papers reflect Keesing's particular interest in Melanesian languages and the cultural conflict caused by colonialism.
Materials include correspondence with colleagues, friends, family, and associates; manuscripts of published and unpublished
works; ethnographic and linguistic data collected in field notebooks, journals, typescripts, diaries, photographs, and recorded
interviews; teaching material; writings of others related to his research interests; and computer analysis of genealogical
data from Kwaio. The papers span the period 1962 to 1993.
Keesing, Roger M., 1935-1993
Selected materials from this collection have been digitized and can be viewed through links in the container list.
Letters of recommendation in Box 2, Folder 23 are restricted according to state and federal law until 2050. Transcriptions
located in Box 42, Folders 37 and 58 are restricted by the donor until 2010. Cassette audiotape #82 and #83 are restricted
by the donor until 2010. Cassette audiotape #71 is restricted by the donor until 2050.
Roger M. Keesing Papers, MSS 427. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Roger Martin Keesing, anthropologist and linguist, was born in Hawaii on May 16, 1935, the second child of two anthropologists
who had immigrated to the United States from New Zealand in 1928.
Keesing received a B.A. degree in social anthropology from Stanford in 1956. He then spent two years with the U. S. Air Force,
taking advantage of a posting to Turkey to conduct fieldwork. Deciding to continue his study of anthropology, he began graduate
work at Harvard University, obtaining an M.A. in 1963 and a doctoral degree in 1965. His dissertation,
Kwaio Marriage and Society, was based on ethnographic fieldwork with the Kwaio, a native people of Malaita in the Solomon Islands. He remained both
professionally and personally engaged with the Kwaio throughout his career.
He joined the faculty of the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1965, becoming head of the anthropology department in
1971. His interest in the peoples of the Pacific region continued, and he served as Acting Director of the Center for South
Pacific Studies at U.C. Santa Cruz, 1972-1974.
In 1974 Keesing accepted the chair of the anthropology department at the Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National
University, Canberra. He was there until 1990, when he returned to North America to teach anthropology at McGill University,
Keesing did fieldwork in the Solomon Islands in the early 1960s, working on his dissertation. He made regular visits over
the next two decades, recording ethnographic and linguistic data that would form the basis for numerous publications on the
Oceanic languages of the Solomon Islands. His book,
Melanisian Pidgen and the Oceanic Substrate (1988), made an important contribution to creole studies, building on his previous work, a
Kwaio Dictionary (1975) and
Kwaio Grammar (1985). He also carried out field research in Himalayan villages in India in 1978 and 1980-1981, but his most extensive contributions
to anthropology are his studies of the language and customs of the Kwaio people.
Keesing was able to pose broad theoretical questions and respond to them with detailed research results that reflected the
range of his interests: cultural theory, language, social structure, gender relations and the impact of colonial history and
development. He published widely, writing more than one hundred articles and ten books. He completely reworked the introductory
textbook his father had written, as reflected in the subtitle,
Cultural Anthropology: A Contemporary Perspective, which became a successful introductory text.
Keesing died in Toronto, May 7, 1993.
[Sources: Jolly. M. Roger Martin Keesing: 1935-1993.
Australian Journal of Anthropology, v4, n2 (Spring, 1993), 157-161; Macintyre, M. Roger Martin Keesing (1935-93).
Oceania, v65, n3 (March, 1995), 193-194.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Roger M. Keesing Papers document the research and material generated from Keesing's interest in the Solomon Islands, and
to a lesser extent, India. Keesing was a cultural and linguistic anthropologist whose primary research interest involved the
culture, history and language of the Kwaio people of the Solomon Islands. The materials represented in the Keesing Papers
include correspondence with colleagues, students, friends, and local officials; manuscripts and typescripts of published and
unpublished works, ethnographic data collected in field journals, notebooks, diaries, photographs, slides, and audio recordings;
academic and teaching material; writings by others related to his area of research; and computer analyses of ethnographic
The collection occupies 36.7 linear feet, spans the years 1962 to 1993 and is arranged in thirteen series: 1) MISCELLANEOUS
MATERIAL, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) WRITINGS BY KEESING, 4) WRITINGS BY OTHERS, 5) SOLOMON ISLANDS - FIELD RESEARCH, 6) SOLOMON
ISLANDS - PHOTOGRAPHS, 7) SOLOMON ISLANDS - AUDIORECORDINGS, 8) SUBJECT FILES, 9) CONFERENCES AND MEETINGS, 10) TEACHING MATERIAL,
11) COMPUTER ANALYSIS MATERIAL, 12) INDIA - FIELD RESEARCH, and 13) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
SERIES 1: MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS
This series contains the following: annual reports from 1986 to 1992 describing Keesing's research activities, calendar pages
from 1963 to 1964, a certificate of alien registration to the Solomon Islands, Keesing's curriculum vitae, newspaper clippings,
and photographs of Keesing.
SERIES 2: CORRESPONDENCE
This series is arranged alphabetically by correspondent and then chronologically thereunder. It contains correspondence with
Keesing's colleagues, friends, family, and associates spanning the years 1962 to 1993. David Akin and Jonathan Fifi'i are
two of the extensively represented correspondents. There is substantial correspondence with various Solomon Island Ministries
relating to Keesing's research efforts in the area, and there is a folder titled "Kwaio Correspondents" containing letters
from Malaita denizens written in the Kwaio language.
SERIES 3: WRITINGS BY KEESING
The WRITINGS BY KEESING series is arranged in five subseries: A) Published and Unpublished Writings, B) Talks and Lectures,
C) Reviews, D) School Papers, and E) Untitled Material.
A) The Published and Unpublished Writings subseries is arranged alphabetically by title and contains abstracts, comments,
correspondence, drafts, manuscripts, notes, reviews, and typescripts of published and unpublished writings by Keesing. The
published material represented in this subseries includes:
Cultural Anthropology: A Contemporary Perspective;
Custom and Confrontation: The Kwaio Struggle for Cultural Autonomy;
Kwaio Marriage and Society (Keesing's dissertation);
Lightning Meets the West Wing;
Melanesian Pidgen and Oceanic Substrate; and
New Perspectives in Cultural Anthropology (co-authored with his father, Felix Keesing).
B) The Talks and Lectures subseries is arranged alphabetically by title and reflects the breadth of Keesing's research interests
such as ethnography, kinship, linguistics, religion, ritual, and theory.
C) The Reviews subseries is arranged alphabetically by the reviewed author's last name.
D) The School Papers subseries contains assignments, notes and examinations relating to Keesing's undergraduate and graduate
education. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by title.
E) The Untitled Material subseries contains bibliographic note cards, manuscripts, notes, outlines, and typescripts of projects
SERIES 4: WRITINGS BY OTHERS
The WRITINGS BY OTHERS series is arranged in two subseries: A) Authors and B) Archival Material.
A) The Authors subseries contains correspondence, lectures, notes, and published and unpublished material by other authors.
These writings date from 1954 to 1993 and are arranged alphabetically by author.
B) The Archival Material subseries contains photocopies of material related to Keesing's research for
Lightning Meets the West Wind. This material dates from 1880 to 1939 and contains one microfilm reel. The material originates from three primary sources:
the diaries of district officer W. R. Bell, the London public records office, and the Western Pacific High Commission.
SERIES 5: SOLOMON ISLANDS - FIELD RESEARCH
The SOLOMON ISLANDS - FIELD RESEARCH series are materials generated by Keesing in his research trips to his field site. It
is arranged in five subseries: A) Field Notebooks, B) Jonathan Fifi'i Notebooks, C) Paginated Sequence of Research Materials,
D) Research Notes and Records, E) Genealogies, and F) Kwaio Custom Books.
A) The Field Notebooks subseries contains stenographer's pads used by Keesing for rough notes and jottings during his day-to-day
research activties in Kwaio. They are arranged chronologically.
B) The Jonathan Fifi'i Notebooks subseries contains Fifi'i's (Keesing's main field assistant and informant) stenographer's
pads used for his notes and observations, mostly in Kwaio language, written in the times when Keesing was not in Kwaio.
C) The Paginated Sequence of Research Materials subseries contains Keesing's typed notes, mostly in chronological order, drawn
from his notebooks and interviews. He also included interview transcripts, diary entries and letters in the sequence. He later
wrote marginal numerical subject codes and stamped page numbers on these as a part of making a subject index of the notes.
The index, codes used for subjects, and the notes in page order are included here.
D) The Research Notes and Records subseries contain field research records of special topics and subject notes arranged alphabetically
by folder title. Of note are Keesing's handwritten census notes and settlement diagrams for each hamlet in his study area,
his case records of omea (mortuary payment) exchanges, and correspondence written in the field to Douglas Oliver, Eugene Ogan,
Jean Guiart, Daniel de Coppet, Paul Kay, Pierre Maranda and others.
E) The Genealogies subseries contains records of genealogical interviews with Kwaio, a name index, and rough notes and unindexed
genealogical records. The subseries begins with the index and other guides to using the material, and is then arranged mainly
by Keesing's numbering of individual genealogical interviews, followed by unindexed notes.
F) The Kwaio Custom Books subseries contains works by Kwaio people mostly in their language about their views of customary
rules, sacred taboos and "generations" (their English word for genealogies). It also contains writings and traditional folklore
prepared by David Akin during his volunteer work at the Kwaio Cultural Center. It is arranged alphabetically by author (where
known) and by title.
SERIES 6: SOLOMON ISLANDS - PHOTOGRAPHS
The SOLOMON ISLANDS - PHOTOGRAPHS series has three subseries: A) Slides, B) Contact Sheets and Prints and C) Photographs of
A) The Slides subseries documents daily village activity as well ritual. Included with this subseries, in box 35, folder 1,
is an index of the slides created by David Akin. The slides date from 1963 to 1979 and are arranged by roll number and date.
B) The Contact Sheets and Prints subseries document daily village activity and ritual. Included in this subseries, in box
37, folder 1, is an index of the contact sheets and prints created by David Akin. In nearly every folder there is a contact
sheet with several prints. The contact sheets and prints date from 1963 to 1989; however, they are not consistently dated.
Included in this subseries is a group of folders, located at the end of the subseries, that contain prints from various Keesing
Lightning Meets the West Wind,
'Elota's Story, and
Kwaio Religion, and Jonathan Fifi'i's autobiography,
From Pig Theft to Parliment.
C) The Photographs of Others subseries primarily contains aerial photographs of Keesing's research areas; however, there are
folders containing photographs attributed to others. There is no index for this subseries and very little descriptive annotation
associated with any of the photographs.
SERIES 7: SOLOMON ISLANDS - AUDIORECORDINGS
The SOLOMON ISLANDS - AUDIORECORDINGS series has three subseries: A) Indexes and Transcripts, B) Cassette Tapes and C) Reel-to-Reel
A) The Indexes and Transcripts subseries is arranged alphabetically by folder title and include the tape or reel number associated
with the corresponding index or transcript. Included in this subseries, in box 42, folders 61 and 62, are indices of the audiorecordings
created by David Akin. The cassette tapes and reel-to-reel tapes document interviews with informants, Kwaio ritual, Kwaio
chanting and music, and Kwaio history. Of particular interest are the tapes relating to the Bell massacre as Keesing captured
interviews with some of the last living Kwaio witnesses.
B) The Cassette Tape subseries is arranged numerically from 1 to 181.
C) The Reel-to-Reel subseries is arranged numerically from 1 to 151.
SERIES 8: SUBJECT FILES
The SUBJECT FILES series is arranged alphabetically by subject and contains subjects such as field work proposals, grant applications,
notes on the Pijin language, and research proposals.
SERIES 9: CONFERENCES AND MEETINGS
The CONFERENCES AND MEETINGS series is arranged alphabetically by title. The series contains correspondence and invitations
extended to Keesing for various conferences and meetings spanning the years 1968 to 1993.
SERIES 10: TEACHING MATERIAL
The TEACHING MATERIAL series has four subseries: A) University of California, Santa Cruz, B) Australian National University,
C) McGill University, and D) Miscellaneous.
A) The University of California, Santa Cruz subseries contains syllabi, reading lists and notes Keesing generated during his
tenure at UCSC.
B) The Australian National University subseries contains course material and administrative material related to Keesing's
tenure while at ANU.
C) The McGill University subseries contains course material, evaluations by students, notes, and proposals for courses while
Keesing was at McGill.
D) The Miscellaneous subseries contains a final report on Keesing's Peace Corps orientation course and numerous lecture notes
from extension courses Keesing instructed through the University of the South Pacific.
SERIES 11: INDIA - FIELD RESEARCH
The INDIA - FIELD RESEARCH series has four subseries: A) Correspondence, B) Writings, C) Field Journals, and D) Subject Files.
A) The Correspondence subseries is arranged alphabetically by correspondent and then chronologically thereunder. It contains
correspondence with Keesing's colleagues, students and friends, and spans the years 1978 to 1986.
B) The Writings subseries contains linguistic notes, research notes and a transcribed interview from Keesing's research efforts
in India. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by title.
C) The Field Journal subseries documents Keesing's research activities in the Chambra District of India. This subseries includes
considerable linguistic and genealogical material. The journals date from March 1980 to April 1981.
D) The Subject Files subseries contains maps, photographs and slides, research proposals, and seminar notes from Keesing's
research in India. The material is arranged alphabetically by title, dating from 1980 to 1981.
SERIES 12: COMPUTER ANALYSIS MATERIAL
The COMPUTER ANALYSIS MATERIAL series contains computer generated analysis from Keesing's research with the Kwaio. Keesing's
genealogical research and linguistic material are well represented in this series. The series contains numerous computer printouts
and is arranged alphabetically by title.
SERIES 13: ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES
The ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES series contains the originals of brittle or high acid content documents that have
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Akin, David, 1955-
Fifi'i, Jonathan, 1921-
Keesing, Roger M., 1935-1993 -- Archives
Anthropologists -- Biography