colonies, have rejected outright political independence (Watts, 2000;
Baldacchino, 2006): as has done Tokelau in February this year3.
•Many innovative forms of environmental management4 and epidemiological
research5 tend to involve, or be based on, islands.
•Major advances in evolutionary biology, ecology and bio-geography have
occurred on the basis of pioneering island field research: insularity is pronounced
as the flywheel of evolution, with copious island-based examples of endemism
(Carlquist, 1974)6, as well as extinction7.
•Anthropology cut its teeth with the study of island societies in allegedly pristine
and quasi-laboratory settings8.
•Social network theory has been developed from the particular research contexts
afforded by small island environments (Barnes, 1954; Boissevain, 1974).
•Islands are platforms for the emergence of national identity and for the
affirmation of cultural specificity: critical resources, especially in a context of
sweeping globalization and the death of cultures and languages. As prototypical
ethno-scapes, islands have spearheaded the study of the production of locality
(Appadurai, 1996: 180).
•Amongst the ten territories declared as having the highest Gross National Income
per capitalevels of (conventionally estimated) economic development, four B
Aruba, Bermuda, Iceland and French PolynesiaB are islands or island
archipelagoes with small populations (The Economist, 2003b).
3‘Tiny Isle of Tokelau rejects Independence’, Washington Times, February 16, 2006. Available at:
4Crosby (1986) and Grove (1995: 9) remind us that Mauritius was the site of the modern world’s first
environmental debate. Landes (1998: 69) documents the island groups of Açores and Madeira as the world’s
prototype plantation economies. Their separateness, distinctiveness and more manageable size render islands
obvious starting points for designing sustainable ecotourism programmes via biosphere reserves, national parks
and other diversity-rich areas (Di Castri & Balaji, 2002).
5The island of Mafia, off Zanzibar, is the World Health Organization test site for the elimination of advanced
lymphoedema [elephantiasis] (The Economist, 2003a). The islanders of Tristan da Cunha may hold the key to
the asthma and lung cancer genes (Scott, 2003).The Micronesian islands of Pingelap and Pohnpei have the
highest known incidence of achromatopsia [colour blindness] (Sacks, 1996; Gabilondo, 2000). Iceland is today
a key leader in genetic decoding, thanks to its well documented genealogical heritage (Vesilind, 2000).
6These include giantism (e.g. the Komodo dragon lizard) and dwarfism (e.g. the Icelandic horse).
7"The incidence of endangered or extinct species is greater on islands than on continents. More endemic
species have been created on islands, but more have perished there" (Young, 1999: 253).
8The forays of Radcliffe-Brown (1922) in the Andaman Islands, Malinowski (1922) amongst the Trobriand (or
Kiriwina) Islanders of Papua New Guinea, Mead (1928, 1934) in Samoa and the Admiralty Islands, and Firth
(1936) in Tikopia led to the birth of ethnography and the consolidation of social anthropology as a discrete
social science discipline with its own methodological rigour (Baldacchino, 2004a; DeLoughrey, 2001: 35).