The Story of Jimmy: The Practice of History on North Pentecost, Vanuatu

John P. Taylor*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    The Story of Jimmy is a frequently told oral-historical account of 'first contact' from North Pentecost, Vanuatu. It describes the adventures of a group of ni-Vanuatu plantation labourers who escape from Fiji by hijacking a ship and navigate a return to their home islands in Vanuatu. Central to the story is a young white man, known simply as Jimmy. Unwittingly forced to make the journey with them, and before they are all finally shipwrecked on the east coast of North Pentecost, Jimmy witnesses the murder and cannibalisation of his father by the starving hijackers. Yet upon departing for home some four years later he bestows a new name upon the Island: Uretabe, the 'world of love/gifts'. This story, with its dual-inverted narrative of abduction, transformation, escape and return, presents a remarkable account at a unique moment of historical rupture and cross-cultural exchange. In doing so it also expresses idiomatic themes of mobility, place and identity as they relate to the politics of both the colonial past and post-colonial present in North Pentecost. This paper explores those themes and narratives while considering their relevance to my own experiences as a researcher in the area.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)243-259
    Number of pages17
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2003


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