Inventing Easter Island

Inventing Easter IslandEaster Island, or Rapa Nui as it is known to its inhabitants, is located in the Pacific Ocean, 3,600 kilometers west of South America. Due to its intriguing statues and complex history, the island has been a source of worldwide fascination since the first visit by Europeans in 1722. Inventing Easter Island examines narrative strategies and visual conventions framing the European image of ‘Easter Island' as distinct from the Polynesian conception of ‘Rapa Nui.' It looks at the geographic imaginary that pervaded the eighteenth century, a period of overwhelming imperial expansion.

Beverley Haun begins with a discussion of the forces which shaped the European version of island culture and goes on to consider the representation of that culture in the form of explorer texts and illustrations, as well as more recent texts and images in comic books and kitsch from off island. Throughout, Inventing Easter Island is used as a case study of the impact of imperialism on the perception of a culture from outside. The study hinges on three key points – an inquiry into the formation of ‘Easter Island' as a subject; an examination of how the constructed space and culture have been shaped, reshaped, and represented in discursive spaces; and a discussion of cultural memory and how the constraints of foreign texts and images have influenced thought and action about ‘Easter Island.' Richly illustrated and unique in its findings, Inventing Easter Island will appeal to cultural theorists, anthropologists, educators, and anyone interested in the history of the South Pacific. Published by the University of Toronto Press, April, 2008.

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