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Trees 'of the ancestors', trees 'of the Whites': Changes in the social value of the coconut palms and their space on Vanua Lava, Vanuatu.

Caillon S., Labouisse J.P.. 2015. In : Europe and the pacific. Bruxelles : European Society for Oceanists, p. 173-173. European Society for Oceanists (ESfO) Conference. 10, 2015-06-24/2015-06-27, Bruxelles (Belgique).

The coconut palm in the village of Vêtuboso (Vanua Lava's island, Vanuatu, South Pacific) should be classified as a socially valued object. Present before the first migrants reached Vanuatu's coasts, this perennial plant is still associated with myths and material or immaterial multi-uses. With the development of copra industry 150 years ago, it became the tree 'of the Whites'. Thanks to a cultural geography approach, the authors will try to understand the change of the status of coconut palms in its new space, the coconut plantation, defined as the space 'of the Whites' which production practices and biological material has been inherited from. Its ew economical function is perceived as an unavoidable constraint since copra is the unique source of income for the people of Vêtuboso. Coconut plantation is also a 'greedy' space encroaching on the space of crop gardens and of the forest inhabited by spirits. It also definitely 'captures' land among a family during few generations because of coconut palms' longevity and multiplication. Thus, the coconut is perceived as the tree 'of the Whites' mainly for its relation to the place, the plantation. To enhance coconut's status, it has to be taken out of its actual space. But if the coconut finds back his traditional space, what kind of social value will Vêtuboso inhabitants give to it?(Texte intégral)

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