‘Stories of long ago’ and the forces of modernity in South Pentecost

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In the Sa language of southern Pentecost Island in Vanuatu, mythical narratives are known as dun. Notions of authenticity in the telling of dun engender debates about the status of competing versions and the links between dun and place. A current example I examine is the annual gol ‘land diving ritual’ and the disputes which have developed over who is entitled to benefit from the commercial benefits of this ceremony. Dun narratives in such contexts are increasingly being appealed to as sources of authority, capable of indexing what is considered ‘authentic’ knowledge about history, place and cultural practice and reflecting their significance as foundations for identity.


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