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  About en francais!

Welcome! Bienvenue! Maeva!

Projects & Publications

Marquesan Phrasebook

Marquesan Now

Creative Writing

Landscape History Work

Marquesas Links

I am a writer, researcher, anthropologist, author, wife and mother of two daughters.  Here you can find information about my books, latest work and projects, useful links, and information about my home away from home, the Marquesas Islands (where "maeva" means welcome! More on that, below).  My professional life has two halves:  

My work as a writer, researcher and copyeditor includes authoring my own books, in addition to drafting proposals and full-length books for others on American culture, anthropology, science, economics and social issues.  Topics I have worked on include the impact of the transparency revolution on the modern workplace, the burgeoning field of neuraesthetics, the potential social benefits of data science, the influence of the sharing economy on workers' rights, and the power of collective illusions.  Projects include copyediting a book on the origins of early seafaring in South China and Southeast Asia, Prehistoric Maritime Cultures and Seafaring in East Asia; research and consulting in collaboration with the Aspen Institute and Johns Hopkins International Arts + Mind Lab; and research and writing for Todd Rose's latest book, Collective Illusions: Conformity, Complicity and the Science of Why We Make Bad Decisions (Hachette 2022). I have also conducted research on some of the world's most pressing social issues for the think tank, Populace.

Together with Marquesan cultural leader Débora Kimitete, I am co-authoring a young adult historical novel set in the Marquesas Islands before European contact. Entitled The Weaver, here's the Twitter pitch: The Marquesas Islands, 1300 A.D. Thirteen-year-old Keata is torn between her warrior aspirations and the strict rules of tribal tradition. When her cousin disappears on an enemy raid, she sets out on a journey to find him...and herself. See Creative Writing for more on this project!

Please email me if you are interested in my writing work or would like to enlist my help with writing, consulting, research or copyediting projects!

My work as an anthropologist focuses on the relationship between culture and the environment, and specifically the intersection between people, place, and culture. Since 2001 this work has drawn upon ethnographic fieldwork and my professional experience as an archaeologist, landscape historian and curatorial assistant. I specialize in French Polynesia and the Marquesas, in particular, where I have been working for over two decades. Some of the topics I have written about are: the relationship between land use and sovereignty; the impact of feared places on indigenous connections to the land; Marquesan language; tapa (traditional bark cloth); cultural appropriation; the symbolism of the Marquesan staple, breadfruit; and the concepts of critical and living heritage (see Projects & Publications). I have also worked as adjunct faculty in the anthropology departments of Saint Michael's College and the University of Vermont. 

Check out my book!

Published by the University of Washington Press (2019).  Order your own copy or download the Kindle version on Amazon.

Working with the Ancestors Cover

Praise for
Working with the Ancestors:

    - "In the tradition of the best anthropological books, Working with the Ancestors transports the reader to a foreign land and allows them to learn from local people themselves. It is a journey worth taking." Gary Jackson and Claire Smith, Flinders University

    - "Both timely and necessary." Guillaume Molle, Australian National University

    - "This well-written and powerful book blends together theoretical foundations, ethnographic examples, and Donaldson's own extensive anthropological fieldwork, presented as a series of vignettes and case studies." David Fazzino, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

    - "A fascinating book...Addresses questions that are core to current sustainability debates: Is it possible to separate Indigenous cultural and environmental values? How has depopulation, colonialism and religion impacted island communities? Are capitalist approaches to cultural heritage management sustainable if they diminish the very values that give significance to heritage places?" Gary Jackson and Claire Smith, Flinders University

Marquesan Now 

Marquesan Now is a blog that shares Marquesan words, news and photos inspired by my phrasebook (see below). Live vicariously.  Learn Marquesan.  Visit Marquesan Now!   

Marquesan Phrasebook

The Marquesan language has been skirting extinction for over a century.  The Marquesan Phrasebook promotes the distinct Marquesan language and cultural identity of today.  It contains a Marquesan dictionary that translates Marquesan directly into English for the first time since the early 19th century.  It is also the first book to translate between Marquesan, English, and French.  The Marquesan Phrasebook is a valuable resource for scholars, tourists, and local Marquesans alike.  

Click on the Marquesan Phrasebook link at left to find out more!

Archaeology in the Marquesas

The AFAR Summer Field School in the Marquesas operates bi-annually from June to August.  Students learn about the archaeology of the islands, how to speak an endangered language, and engage with a community museum.  The field school is partially sponsored by the Andover Foundation for Archaeological Research and directed by University of Hawaii professor Barry Rolett.  A unique opportunity you don't want to miss!  Visit www.afargo.org for details and to apply.   

About the Marquesas Islands

The Marquesas, known to Marquesans as Fenua Enata or Fenua Enana, are a remote group of 12 volcanic islands located just below the equator, in French Polynesia.  The most isolated archipelago in the world, only a few are accessible by domestic flights from Tahiti.  A favorite haunt of a number of famous artists over the last two centuries, this is a place entirely unique in culture, geography and spirit.  Towering peaks and steep, rocky cliffs plunge directly into a tossing, turquoise sea punctuated by white caps that gleam in the sun.  The tropical air breathes relaxation, even as its salty currents carry giant frigate birds and bright white doves lazily across the sky above.  

Is your curiosity piqued?  Click here to indulge in Marquesas information, photographs, and more!