Diachronic Fetishisation: Ruin Porn and Pitcairn Island Language, Archaeology, and Architecture

  • Joshua Nash
  • Martin Gibbs


Pitcairn Island, South Pacific is a remote 5 km2 island known the world over for its famed connection to the Mutiny on the Bounty and its resultant mixed Anglo-Polynesian language and culture. Although captivated observers remain perpetually fascinated by the history and plight of the 50-odd population of Bounty descendants still resident on this faraway British outpost, there exists scant documentation of several pertinent cultural elements of this exemplary society for the study of isolation, linguistic change, and architectural and language-based ruining. As the Pitcairn Island language—Pitcairn—crumbles and fights against the tides of purported modernity and necessary innovation, so, too, do many archaeological artefacts and traditional architectural techniques. Here, one observes the aesthetics of ruin and demise in two old houses, which are steeped in earlier building traditions, in parallel with change, progress, and development–devolution in other spheres of culture like language. The ruining of language and the rusting of the former architecture on Pitcairn Island are but two associated traditional bedfellows, which offer insight into a broader imaginary of corrosion. Using the recent account of a dilapidated house being mistaken for a junkyard by a visitor during fieldwork in 2016, this chapter makes claims relating language, architectural, and archaeological collapse. The worded and built ruining on Pitcairn Island sees the death of a language, the likely dying out of a people, and the tarnished ness of tangible and intangible lost artefacts as being diachronically steeped. It is argued that this aesthetic of expiry and collapse on and of Pitcairn Island is an ideal case study in identifying alternate ruinscapes, observing ruin architecture, and addressing the isolation of ruining. An argument is advanced which considers how architectural documentation renders the cultural documenter a ruin photographer of architectural decay, just as the linguist writes and records (of–about) the disappearance of concomitant spoken tropes.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joshua Nash
    • 1
    • 2
  • Martin Gibbs
    • 3
  1. 1.University of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  2. 2.Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Aarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark
  3. 3.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia

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