REVIEW: MacCARTHY, Michelle: Making the Modern Primitive: Cultural Tourism in the Trobriand Islands. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016. 270 pp., biblio., illus. US$68.00 (cloth).

Joseph Martin Cheer

Research output: Contribution to journalShort ReviewOtherpeer-review


Making the Modern Primitive is arguably a tribute to Bronislaw Malinowski, founding father of ethnography and responsible for putting the Trobriand Islands on the map. The ways of the primitive man underlined Malinowski’s work, and in establishing the method of participatory observation, he theorised about the mores of the exotic Other and applied this knowledge to understandings of the way society and institutions operate (or not). Just over a century later, the Trobriands continue to pique the interest of anthropologists and ethnologists, especially amidst recent doubts cast over the e cacy and ethics of Malinowski’s modus operandi. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that his legacy has inspired Making the Modern Primitive. What is more, it is di cult to avoid relating Making the Modern Primitive to Dennis O’Rourke’s epic documentary Cannibal Tours, where he stated: “There is nothing so strange in a strange land as the stranger who comes to visit it.” O’Rourke’s observation is apropos to cultural tourism where not only is the spectacle centred on the hosts but also the presence of the tourist itself invites a reverse gaze.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)495-496
Number of pages2
JournalJournal of the Polynesian Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2017


  • Trobriands
  • Tourism
  • Cultural tourism

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