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Thomas Malm, Photo.

Thomas Malm


Thomas Malm, Photo.

The Outrigger Canoes of Polynesia: A Study of Cultural Change and Conditions for Sustainable Development


  • Thomas Malm

Summary, in English

A series of comparative studies is suggested, focused on perceptions of outrigger canoes, and aimed at an increased understanding of the relationship between social relations, biodiversity, and sustainable development in Oceanic societies on small islands and in coastal areas undergoing rapid cultural change. After a critique of the recent notion that canoe-building in Polynesia developed as a result of natural selection, and after discussing the declining local interest in outrigger canoes, it is argued that these canoes can be regarded as a "total social phenomenon" or "fact", in Marcel Mauss' sense of the term. By focusing on such a phenomenon/fact, it is possible to understand many other societal aspects to which it is connected, including gender relations, social structure, religion, perceptions of nature, economy, relationships between centre and periphery, and cultural change. With a focus on outrigger canoes, analyses should take into consideration the processes of imperialism, colonialism, acculturation, and modernisation.


  • Human Ecology

Publishing year




Document type

Conference paper


  • Social and Economic Geography


  • Oceania
  • outriggers
  • human ecology
  • Marcel Mauss
  • cultural change
  • islands
  • canoes

Conference name

Islands of the World X: Globalizing Islands; Culture, Peace, Resources and Sustainability

Conference date

2008-08-25 - 2008-08-29

Conference place

Jeju Island, Korea, Republic of