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island conversations
podcast series

Welcome to SICRI’s “island conversations” podcast series.

The aim of these podcasts is to highlight the work of island studies scholars and practitioners who make a significant contribution to islands’ research, arts, and culture landscape.

The podcasts are accompanied by a curated transcript that is edited to read as an independent piece.

"Island Notes" composition in Cretan Flat Mandolin by Christophoro Gorantonaki - "Melody Box"

In this inaugural podcast, we will be hearing from SICRI's AB Chair Professor Henry Johnson from the University of Otago, Aotearoa New Zealand where he is Associate Director of the University’s Centre for Global Migrations. Henry is interviewed by SICRI's Co-convenor Associate Professor Evangelia Papoutsaki.


Evangelia (Valia) Papoutsaki

Henry, welcome and thank you for agreeing to be the first guest in the podcast series. You are currently serving as chair of SICRI’s AB but your engagement with SICRI goes a long way back. Before we go on a more personal note about your own island background and research, could I ask you to share with us what brought you to SICRI? And what are some of your insights you might have about SICRI’s contribution to island studies?


Henry Johnson

Thank you very much for having me here today and asking me these questions. What brought me to SICRI was a confluence of different ideas, and a moment of meeting different people. I had been working on the islands in Japan for many years before I was involved in SICRI. I'd been working in New Zealand, and also doing research in the Channel Islands.


What brought me to SICRI was an encounter with Phil Hayward. Phil was a visitor to Otago University back in the early 2000s. He brought with him a huge amount of information and knowledge of island studies. And he presented several research seminars for us in our School of Language, Literature and Performing Arts, and various other scholars came to those seminars. Phil introduced the idea of SICRI and the idea of having an annual conference, and the idea of a scholarly organization that would bring together people interested in a variety of aspects to do with islands, but especially with an interest in the arts of island, whether it's performing arts or other types of arts, and he asked at that time if I would be interested in being a part of it. And I said, yes, absolutely. So, it was something that was at the heart of what I was interested in.


It was timely for me. That introduction to Phil Hayward was a very important aspect in taking my interests into island studies into a different direction, and into something that I was very passionate about.


Thank you, you have made a big contribution to SICRI over the years. I think you are perhaps one of the few participants who have been to almost every SICRI event.  My next question would be on your own personal island connections and where  you grew up on the island of Jersey: what are some childhood memories you have in growing up on this island; the language; the customs; and how growing up on an island shaped your identity and view of the world and subsequently your own research.


That's a great question. If I just go back another step, when SICRI was started, I remember one of the emails that came round was, well, we've got this organization, the Small Island Cultures Research Initiative, and we use the term small island cultures. But how small is a small island, or put it another way, how big is a small island? So that immediately generated much discussion in definitions. And some organizations and nations have their own definitions for defining exactly how big an island is, or how big land masses that they're going to call an island.


But yes, I'm from the island of Jersey, or the Bailiwick of Jersey, which comprises the island of Jersey and several outlying reefs, small islands within it. So, linking my connection with Jersey and SICRI is actually very important for me, personally, because I've been doing research on Jersey's language, and how it's used within the performing arts and actually within SICRI, and how songs that use Jerseys language vary, how the language can be revitalized by teaching people how to sing songs using the language.

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St Helier, Jersey. Photo © Henry Johnson, 2017.

But having been born on the island of Jersey and being educated on the island right through, there comes a point when you decide, well, are you going to stay on the island or are you going to move elsewhere? Most people who go to university will go to a university on the British mainland. A few do go to France, especially to a place like Caen up in Normandy, especially relating to law, but by far the majority do go to the UK. So, I went to university in England.

Setting foot outside of Jersey to live was a big move. And of course, when you move to the UK, you don't always realize that you're living on an island because it's so vast in comparison to Jersey being a relatively small island, at least in terms of landmass, but I guess also in population, just about 105,000 people now. As a child, growing up on Jersey, we were very fortunate as a family to have many family holidays, whether it's to the UK, to France, where you could go over on a day trip. Depending on where you go in France, it might be half an hour on a boat, or it might be an hour on a boat. And you really had that sense of going somewhere big, somewhere that wasn't an island. And I think it's only later on that I realized Jersey was a small island, and how important it was in really giving me a sense of what an island is and how important an island is, in terms of studying its culture and its people. When we went to England, it's a big place, population is big, and travel is very, very easy. On Jersey, your travel is easy, whether you want to walk to the local shops, take a bus to town, or drive a car is very easy to travel around the island.

I remember as a child, we used to enter the Around the Island Walk. And that's something that's really interesting, because it is small and round; the island walk you could do it in a day. It didn't go around the actual coastline, but it followed the main road or sometimes the small lanes that were as close to the coastline as possible. So, in a very long day, you could actually walk around the island, and many people did it for the charity walk. It used to be at Easter. And you know, you grow up on an island and you can walk around it in a day, so that sense of spatiality really helped me to find what an island was. But of course, that was my perspective of what an island was or what an island is.

Within the field of islands studies, people define islands in slightly different ways in terms of their size, and as a place. Some people who grew up in large urban islands, whether it's Hong Kong Island or Singapore, or in parts of New York City, the idea of living on an island can be defined very differently. So, I do believe that growing up on an island, and traveling off that island, had a massive influence in terms of how I define what an island is and what I studied. And I should also point out that Jersey is part of the Channel Islands, so it's an archipelago that is mostly British.

The British Channel Islands as Crown Dependencies are divided into two main parts, the Bailiwick of Jersey and the Bailiwick of Guernsey. In the 19th century, we had family living on Alderney, one of the islands within the Bailiwick of Guernsey. My mother and her parents lived on Guernsey, so she was an evacuee in the Second World War. She was evacuated to Manchester in England, and then as a teenager returned after the war to Guernsey, and then herself, migrated to Jersey to become a schoolteacher. As a child, we used to Island hop, from Jersey to Guernsey to see the grandparents. Sometimes it would be on a regular basis. So, the idea of going from one island to another was very important, but at the time, we didn't think anything of it, was just what we did. It wasn't oh, I live on an island, I'm going to another. I have to see the grandparents, jump on a plane, 10 minutes later, you're in Guernsey.

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St Peter Port, Guernsey. Photo © Henry Johnson, 2012.

So, you were not sailing to the continent.

Sometimes we took the boat and sometimes we took the plane, which was a magical company called Aurigny. We had these planes with three engines, one on each wing and one on the tail. And it took about 10 to 15 minutes to get to Guernsey; the boats, we also had hydrofoils - going to Guernsey we used to take those occasionally - they took a bit longer. It's usually about an hour if I remember rightly. And then we had a boat. As a child, we used to call it the mail boat, in the old days that used to transport mail, and then they became car ferries. But if we went on that boat, that would probably be at least two hours or something like that. I can't actually remember the exact time, but at least it'll be a lot longer.

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Aurigny plane at Alderney Airport. Photo © Henry Johnson, 2012.

Were there any distinctive differences between these two islands? When you were going there as a child, would you feel that this is a different place?

Yes, there's some. There were a lot of differences between the islands and a lot of similarities as well. They're both Crown Dependencies so that they are British, but they don't have a say in the United Kingdom. The UK Government will protect the islands, but the islands are very much separate in terms of their own political identity. They print their own money. They pass their own laws through the Privy Council through the Crown. The Bailiwick of Guernsey is more of an archipelago. It's got its own Parliament within its own Bailiwick. So, you've got the Bailiwick of Guernsey, but then you've also got Alderney and it has its own government and also Sark as a fief of the Crown.

Growing up in Jersey, there would be some competitions between the islands. There'd be an annual football match, called the Muratti. Football fans would either travel to Jersey, from Guernsey, or from Jersey to Guernsey, so that created a sense of inter-island rivalry. On a political level, the governments of each island would often talk to each other, but they are distinctly separate as well.

Languages are an interesting area. All the Channel Islands were part of Normandy. And when William the first, William the Conqueror, invaded England in 1066, the Channel Islands were already part of Normandy. People often say colloquially or in everyday sense that the Channel Islands conquered England, or Jersey conquered England. Norman was hugely influential on the islands and became the local language. Each of the islands gradually developed their own branch of the language. In Jersey, Jèrriais became the language and in Guernsey, Guernésiais, and Sark also has its own language but that was transmitted from parts of Jersey when Sark was formed when Sark formally became a fief of the Crown. Alderney also had its own language as well, but that's more or less died out. Now there is a movement to revive the language in Alderney and to keep it going in Sark as well, but in Jersey and Guernsey, the languages, they have similarities, but they are different branches of the Norman language. You can really think of them as languages in their own right.

Interestingly, Jersey is a small island, and we talk about Jèrriais as being the local language. But I always remember vividly as a child people talking about different dialects on the island. Someone from the west of the island and one of the island’s 12 parishes, might speak in their own dialect. And then maybe someone from St. Martin's on the east of the island would speak in another dialect. Of course, they could talk to each other. But a lot of fun would be made of this when they had maybe a different word or a different expression within their local language.

A tiny island can have diversity within it. In the last 20 years or so with the real revitalization of [Jèrriais on] the island, one of the dialects has become a predominant dialect, to help the younger generation revive the language and to maintain it, to keep it going. And interestingly, those who still can recall some of the other dialects seem to be quite accommodating in letting one version of it dominate. Guernsey has with its own language with slightly separate dialects. They'd say that one branch of Guernésiais was more like French and another branch wasn't.

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German bunker with car ferry in background. Photo © Henry Johnson, 2017.

I guess that even today, young people will be using some expressions, even if they're not fluent, in at least the predominant version. Is there any expression that really stands out from your childhood that you were used to use?

I remember, as a child, people would often say, “ Comment qu'tu'es?” (How are you)? And different people would say it with a slightly different accent. So maybe they would say it just how they thought it should be said. It's like our how are you, my friend? It's very colloquial, but just the general expression that would really stand out. I remember once as a child we had a couple of local workmen doing work at the family home, and they would speak in patois. We'd also call it Jersey–French. Now, people call it Jèrriais. But they'd be speaking in patois. And they'd be talking away and I wouldn't have a clue what they're talking about. And then suddenly, you'd hear occasional English words put in, maybe they'd be talking about the greenhouse. So that soundscape, that linguistic soundscape was definitely there. But as more and more people came to the island to work, as it became more involved in the finance industry and tourism, different languages came in. English is obviously the dominant language today, the primary language really, but there is a Portuguese community in the island. There's a Polish community, and in Guernsey, you have a Latvian community.

How did they come to live on the island?

Well, Jersey had a labour shortage. I believe that was in the late 50s and early 60s, somewhere around then and it was for farming. Farming was a main industry on Jersey. And there was a labour shortage. Maybe it's because locals weren't wanting to work on the farms, or they needed to bring in short-term workers for picking or planting special seasons. And the Jersey government had a special agreement with Portugal. I think at that time, it was with Madeira, another island. And so many Portuguese workers came to work on the farms. At the same time, Jersey's tourist industry started to boom, and it became an island for mass tourism from the UK. It was an island that was away from the UK, but relatively close. So you could fly over, you could come on the boat, which became the car ferry. I think from Southampton it was about eight or nine hours, from Weymouth in England maybe six to seven hours, something like that. Flying, it'd be less than an hour from the south of England.

And so at the same time, the Portuguese community made a massive impact in agriculture and farming and they contributed much more to the tourism industry. Now there are many Portuguese businesses on the islands, and the Portuguese Association has its own festival every year, and it makes a great contribution. And when anything's done in any official documents in different languages, you'd have English, you'd also have Portuguese, because it's such an important language for the island. And over the last 20 years or so, also, Polish has become very important for Jersey.

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St Helier, Jersey. Photo © Henry Johnson, 2017.


For such a small island, it has retained an openness in absorbing and engaging with outsiders coming in and creating space for them to make a contribution.


Yes, that's what I think, as Jerseys industries have changed over the years. I mean, back in the 19th century, you'd have boat building. Boat building attracted migrants. You'd have UK military based during the Napoleonic Wars, which would also bring its own industries to the Channel Islands. You had apple farming also, which was very important at the time. But in the 20th century, it was primarily agriculture. And then tourism in the post 1945 era, because Jersey was occupied by Nazi Germany for five years, from 1940 to 1945. And same as Guernsey and as I mentioned, my mother was an evacuee with her family to the UK.


In those post-war years there was a boom in tourism, especially from the 50s onwards. There was tourism before, but it was not mass tourism. In Jersey, many hotels were built around the coast, many different bays, some beautiful golden sandy beaches, a lot of hotels in town. In more recent years, the tourism industry has started to fall quite a bit. And as the finance industry has taken over as the main industry for the island, a lot of those hotels have become apartment blocks to help house the population. Sixty years ago, the population was just a little over half of what it is now. Now it's just over 105,000, so the population has increased hugely for the size of the island.


Usually, small islands tend to lose population. Do you think that it’s because of the finance industry that has been developing the last few years the reason for the island’s population increase?


Yes, I believe that the finance industry has bought a lot of employment to the islands. And of course, to meet the employment needs, you would need people to want to come and live and work there. Housing is relatively expensive in comparison to the UK. Some housing, for the general population, tends to be on a smaller side than in some other places.


On another note, how do you call yourself? What does someone from Jersey call themselves?


I'm Jersey.

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You have been living in New Zealand for over 25 years now, and you've lived in Japan before that. What part of your identity comes first? Are you an islander? Are you a Jersey islander? Or are you British? How do you see yourself when that question is asked of you know?

A great question! It's a complex question. It's not easily answered one or the other. {…} I feel very much that I am an islander, I feel that even living here in New Zealand, living on the South Island of New Zealand, I feel like an islander. I think even though the South Island is hugely bigger in terms of geography, in comparison to Jersey, there is a sense of islands that's here. I think perhaps it's because most of the settlements are around the coast. Dunedin where I live, it's a coastal city. Go to Invercargill. Go to Nelson, Christchurch, very close to the coast but also in the North Island of New Zealand, Auckland, very much a coastal city, Wellington, coastal city. I think that there is sense of being by the sea. {…} So I do feel as though I'm still on an island in New Zealand, I think that's very special. I think being close to the sea is very important, as well. {…} I think I can place my identity in different locations at different times.

Thank you for sharing some of your personal background with us. I think it makes this conversation a lot more intimate in so many ways... Moving on to the next point in our conversation, I'd like to ask you more about your background in Island studies and what brought you to islands research. And then perhaps we can explore a little bit more your connection to this field.

I think my first connection with island studies was as a master's student at the University of London, where I did my dissertation project on the use of music and the revitalization of Jersey's language area. That made me realize that music in a small location could be distinct and have very clear connections with aspects of the culture around it. And, in this case, was the small island of Jersey.


Henry preparing for a classical guitar performance for the Jersey Music Society in 1985. Photo by James Flaxman.

I think what you said in our earlier conversation about the distinction between people who call themselves islands studies scholars, and those who do work on island studies is a very important distinction. I realized that as a student, doing work on Jersey and looking at Jersey's local language, there were distinct connections to be made with the whole of the island. And I think that's the difference between doing scholarship on an island and doing Island studies scholarship. I think that's a very important one.

My work in Japan has taken me across numerous islands, whether it's Honshū being the largest and most populated island, although you often don't think of yourself as being on an island there, to some tiny island with populations of less than 100, quite a few of the ones I've done work on there, which are very, very small islands, very low populations. When you're doing research on those islands, you can inherently connect to geography, the geography of the space that you're working on. That space becomes a place when you put people on there, and they have a culture.


Henry playing shamisen in Kyōto, Japan, in 1994. Photo by Helen Shirley.

Island studies can be inherently multidisciplinary. You can include not only disciplines like geography, but there may be archaeology. There may be historical aspects of bringing history into this, maybe historical aspects of an island, where you need to know the history of that island to understand how you get to the present day. In most of my work, I do use history, but most of my work tends to be ethnographic. I'm working with people, talking to people, studying about people as much as I can without being them. I want to know how they connect with the place in which they live. For example, in Jersey, going from one side of the island to another with your language on song, you're connecting with the island. It's not just song on the island. It's song as the island.

For example, language, or dialects. In Japan, a language or the dialect from one island to another can be very different. And it's defined by space, by the place in which people live, they may physically live very close to each other, but they are separated through geography. So, geography can come into the idea of island studies, and other disciplines.

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Kikaijima, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. Photo © Henry Johnson, 2012

That's how you came into island studies then. First as an islander, from your own direct personal experience, but also while you were working in Japan, in studying that environment. Could you share some highlights from your fieldwork, what you focus on and why and just a little bit perhaps on the Amami islands in Japan where you’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at their music and other customs.

I  am thinking of the language of the different islands and how the language has been used within the islands, and the different varieties on the islands in Japan. The Amami Islands have been very special. All of the southwestern islands, or the Nansei Islands, and the Amami Islands or the northern part of that. Some of the highlights of my work in the Amami Islands have been discovering some of the incredible music making of the islands, especially relating to some of the drumming ensembles. While I did do work on language as well, language and music, for example, some of the drumming ensembles have a fascinating history. In Amami, there are these special drums, and nobody really knows exactly where they came from, although there are some similar drums in Korea, and there're some similar drums in Thailand. But, whether they came from those locations or whether the Amami islanders took their drums to those locations, we don't actually know. There's an idea in general that this drum or the teaching was actually transmitted by a trader or traveller from the Asian mainland at some point or brought it back.

You get objects of material culture, artifacts of musical material culture, which had intense meaning for Amami Islanders. They can be associated with religion, they can be associated with place, maybe they're played in a certain way on one of the islands and in a different way on another island. And then with the drumming groups, you can have drum styles of drum ensembles being transmitted from what we'd call mainland Japan, the mainland larger islands, and then you might have drumming ensembles transmitted from the south of the Nansei Islands, from Okinawa. What's fascinating, what's really stood out to me is that the Amami Islands have so much diversity within them. The southern parts of the Amami Islands have been hugely influenced by Okinawan culture, which has a lot of Chinese roots as well. And the north of the Amami Islands has been very much influenced by the south of Kyūshū and other aspects of mainland Japan.

Would you call your research in the Amami islands your most substantial contribution island studies?


Yes, I think a lot of my work on the Amami Islands has really helped inform me about island studies. And I would hope that it has made a contribution to island studies. A lot of the work that I did was in collaboration with Japanese anthropologist, Sueo Kuwahara. And he is from the Amami Islands, so he brought in insider knowledge.  What has been fascinating, I remember once we were, we were working with some locals, and I didn't understand the language they were using. I said to Sueo, well, what are they saying? He looked at me, he said, I don't know either. He did point out very clearly that the local island languages vary. And different people will use different dialects, and while he would have an understanding of one dialect, maybe he didn't have a total understanding of another.

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Iōjima, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. Photo © Henry Johnson, 2012.

You just said earlier on that even on your small island of Jersey, there were distinctive dialects, pronunciations, and different expressions. Having heard about your personal background, and your personal research, let's move now to the wider field of island studies. […] What do you think is the contribution of your field to the island studies? And how has it evolved over time?


This relates to the idea that if you've done work in ethnomusicology on islands, you really need to think across disciplines and think of the island itself. There are many ethnomusicologists who work on islands, and they offer a fantastic contribution into sharing knowledge about a specific musician, or style of music, or musical instrument which is a real contribution to knowledge. What are some island studies scholars who also take an ethnomusicological approach? Like I said, they may want to look across disciplines as well. And yes, we can a look at history and geography and everything else. But if we keep asking ourselves how my scholarship relates to the island itself, then I believe, we are really contributing to island studies. What is the place of my study within the island? I think over time, this has developed more. We can see in maybe the early years of island studies, there would sometimes be scholarship about something on an island. But now I think we're seeing much more scholarship about music, for example, that seriously reflects the island. They can take and inform you about the island, as well as informing you about the music.


How has this particular field evolved out all the older anthropological traditions of observing the other? Has that changed in the ethnography music on islands?


That's a tricky one. Of course, 60–70 years ago, as the field of ethnomusicology itself was growing, those early years of scholarship were very much go and study the music of Asia, or go and study the music of Africa and you'll find your niche and do your year’s fieldwork and come back and write up your monograph on it or your PhD thesis. I think that idea has changed considerably over the years. And I think there's clearly much more sense of one's ethical obligations within a field of study. Very clearly in music research today, there is much more attention given to locating your own study within a certain location, and quite rightly so. And that there is a lot more collaborative scholarship to bring in different perspectives. Sometimes when collaborative scholarship isn't possible, then the scholars I know they will work very hard to make sure that their work is ethical, as ethically sound as possible. […] take Japan for instance, there are many ethnomusicologists, musicologists who weren't born in Japan, but they've lived there for decades. And they know more about Japanese music than they do maybe about any other music, they are the real specialists. And they can write very clearly on their own. […] Sometimes, if you can't attain that level of linguistic skill, then you will be approaching your work in a slightly different way. It could be easy to criticize, but I think we should try and look at value within that work as well because it is making a contribution and a different way.


[…] Why do you think it is important to study islands, through your own area of specialization, music, language, or just broadly speaking island?


I guess, historically, islands haven't always been at the forefront of academic scholarship. Yet, we know that islands are everywhere. And people live on islands. And I think the most important thing is that islands create culture, or people create culture on the islands. And the culture that's created can reflect the natural landscape, it can reflect the environment. I see it as a symbiotic relationship between culture as place and island as space.

On a concluding note, what are you working on right now? What’s your most recent work on islands? What is the passion about islands in your life right now?

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Right now, I'm working on something about Guernsey. We're not in New Zealand and we're not in Japan. And we're not even in the place where I was born. But we're in a place where my mother and grandparents lived, especially before the Second World War, and my grandparents stayed living there well after the Second World War, right up until the 1980s. My work on Guernsey is looking at how cultural artifacts and islands within the Bailiwick of Guernsey can show how the cultural artifacts can give meaning to the islands and how the islands can give meaning to the cultural artifacts, hence, the symbiotic relationship, the interconnections between place and space between culture and island. Two aspects that I've been looking at in particular are postage stamps and anthems. The Bailiwick of Guernsey as a Crown Dependency has its anthem as “God Save the Queen”, the National Anthem, the British National Anthem. That's used on Guernsey, the island of Guernsey and the islands within the Bailiwick of Guernsey as the national anthem on formal occasions.

Fauvic Tower, Jersey. Photo © Henry Johnson, 2010.

But there's also another song in Guernsey that has been popularized. And in the same way that in Jersey different songs have been popularised as anthems, there are other songs also used in different settings and can give meaning. In Alderney, for example, there's a more recent song that's been called all the “Alderney Anthem”. And it's got a lot of resonance with the commemoration of the homecoming of islanders at the end of the Second World War in 1945.


Homecoming is a very important point relating to stamps. I think stamps can also give you a sense of islandness. The Bailiwick of Guernsey used to use entirely UK stamps. When Guernsey Post became a government entity in its own right, about 50 years ago, the Bailiwick would issue stamps for the islands. But before and after that, some of the islands have also issued their own stamps, whether postage stamps or carriage stamps. So just off the west coast of Guernsey, there's a very tiny little island and used to be owned separately, but now it's actually owned by the States of Guernsey, and Sark is another island within the Bailiwick, and Sark has a very small island next door called Brecqhou. And Brecqhou has issued stamps historically and in the present day. And the tiny island of Herm has also issued stamps.


So the issuing of stamps is interesting, not only as a statement, a kind of top down statement of islanders, but also if you look at the iconography of what's depicted on it will give you a sense of the cultural landscape of the island and how those who live there, whether the lease holders of property on the island, lease holders of the island itself or an important organization on the island or whatever, they will give you a sense of how locals want to portray the island. On some stamps, you might see a lot of nature, a lot of plants and trees or bird life, especially on the islands and around the Channel Islands. On other stamps you might see a helicopter that signifies the only way you can go to these islands, if you don't go by boat is on the helicopter. On lots of the island stamps, you see vertical shots of drawings of maps showing the islands’ location, whether it's a location in relation to the UK, or to France or relationship to the other Channel Islands, it helps showing the political dynamics of space.

One could say the Island stamps are an example of representation from within, an act of island agency along the lines of “we are issuing our own stamps, we are in control of how we want the world to see us”. That's very powerful by itself.


Yes, that's right, whether it's a postage stamp or they use carriage stamps, like you add a stamp on to a letter or parcel. It can be shipped to the mainland of Guernsey or flown out.

This is fascinating! being situated essentially between France and Britain, the continent and a bigger Island and the geopolitics of today's Brexit reality.

I can't speak for all the Islanders. It's an interesting debate, The Channel Islands were only associated with the European Community through the UK, there was a protocol on the agreement, which gave the Channel Islands certain trading rights or certain movements of people and trading rights.

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And then when Brexit happened, what was interesting is that even though the Channel Islands were not formally part of the European Union, but only through association through the UK, the Channel Islands didn't have any voting rights on whether to stay or leave. So the protocol that has allowed the trade and the movement now no longer exists.

The islands are once more in the middle of changes, political and economic changes coming from the mainland. But they have always navigated around the two geopolitical masters.

which is another magical aspect about islands being off the mainland. And in the case of the Channel Islands, the national ‘mainland’ is the UK or the or the island of Great Britain. But the historic mainland is France and Normandy. And the closest mainland is definitely France.


And that makes obviously the islands as unique as they are and this particular sort of geopolitical situation.

On that note, Henry, thank you very much for this intimate conversation, sharing your childhood experiences growing up on an island, your own islands research and where these fields should be going to.

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Henry Johnson with Valia Papoutsaki, 24 July 2021

This podcast interview was recorded on Quarantine Island in the Otago Harbour, Aotearoa/New Zealand

Additional Resources (publications by Prof. Henry Jonhson)



Johnson, H. 2016. Encountering Urbanization on Jersey: Development, Sustainability, and Spatiality in a Small Island Setting. Urban Island Studies, 2.

Johnson, H. 2015. Anthem for Jersey: Music, Media and Politics in an Island Setting. MEDIANZ, vol 15 no 1.


Jonhson, H. and Fleury, C. 2015. The Minquiers and Écréhous in spatial context: Contemporary issues and cross perspectives on border islands, reefs and rocks. Island Studies Journal, 10(2):163-180

Jonhnson, H. 2014. Voicing linguistic heritage on Jersey: Popular music, language revitalisation and intervention. In Jadey O'Regan and Toby Wren, Communities, Places, Ecologies. Proceedings of the 2013 IASPM-ANZ Conference (pp.76-83). IASPM Australia/New Zealand


Jonhson, H. 2012. ‘Genuine Jersey’: Branding and Authenticity in a Small Island Culture. Island Studies Journal, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp. 235-258

Johnson, H. 2008. LOCALISING JERSEY THROUGH SONG Jèrriais, Heritage and Island Identity in a Festival Context 1. Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures , Volume 2 Number 2.

Johnson, H. 2008. LOCALISING JERSEY THROUGH SONG Jèrriais, Heritage and Island Identity in a Festival Context 1. Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures , Volume 2 Number 2.



Johnson H. and Kuwahara S. 2013. Neo-Traditional Ensemble Drumming in the Amami Islands: Mapping New Performance Traditions. South Pacific Studies Vol.34, No.1.

Johnson, H. and Kuwahara,s. 2013. LOCATING SHIMA IN ISLAND DRUMMING: Amami Oshima and its Archipelagic Drum Groups. Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures, Volume 7 Number 1.


Johnson, H. 2016. Amami park and island tourism: Sea, land and islandness at a site of simulation. Tourism and Hospitality Research 16(1):88-99.

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