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The Identity of Place: Pitcairn Island in Cultural and Historical Geography
AuthorJohnson, Christine K.
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<bold>ABSTRACT</bold>THE IDENTITY OF PLACE: PITCAIRN ISLAND IN CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL GEOGRAPHYCHRISTINE K. JOHNSONPitcairn Island is a small, remote Pacific island in southeastern Polynesia. Although the archaeological record shows traces of human habitation in the island's prehistory, Pitcairn is more famous for its contemporary history derived from a notorious maritime adventure: the mutiny on the Bounty in 1789. Pitcairn Island is both a home to forty-eight permanent residents and a sort of living museum, with endemic species of plants and birds, Bounty-era artifacts moved into a small museum, and scattered across the landscape, and a landscape that itself has innate historical points of interest. With 224 years of recorded history, Pitcairn has a living legacy from the Bounty saga, and is a place of interest for seafaring captains, tourists, historians, filmmakers, and authors. Polynesia markets itself as Paradise, with tourism a primary industry for the last thirty years. However, if "Paradise" is a place of the imagination, Pitcairn Island is very real, subject to the ideals and perceptions of an increasingly globalized world intent on exploiting island history, perhaps to the detriment of the residents of Pitcairn. Neither wholly Polynesian nor British in culture, the Pitcairners live in an island landscape with challenges but also benefits housed within a paradisiacal region, and work daily to counteract a negative image as a haven for deviance and misbehavior that has developed beyond their control. The impact of a negative image externally imposed on a place as small as Pitcairn is telling, and will require changes to attain economic sustainability in the future.