Topogenic Forms in New Georgia, Solomon Islands

Tim Thomas


James Fox coined the term ‘topogeny’ to refer to practices where the recitation of an ordered sequence of place names is employed as a means of categorizing and transmitting social knowledge. In the Solomon Islands such narratives are an important component of tribal identity, typically tracing ancestral origins to inland mountains and then descending in a sequence of migratory steps towards the coast where present-day groups reside. Previous accounts have sometimes argued that the recurrence of such narratives on virtually every island indicates that they are ideological impositions on the landscape, perhaps having a post-colonial origin. Archaeological dating of ancestral sites on the other hand demonstrates that such narratives can have historical content. This tension between historical ‘truth’ and ideological narrative is the primary concern of this paper. I argue that it can be resolved by focusing on the materiality of topogenic forms.


Kinship, landscape, materiality, Topogeny

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