About me

I am Carlos Mondragón, an anthropologist and historian specialising in the study of Island Melanesia, and more specifically the archipelago of Vanuatu, in the South West Pacific. Overall, I have interdisciplinary interests which cut across anthropology, politics, history and cultural production in Oceania and the broader Asia-Pacific region. During the past decade I have carried out several stints of ethnographic fieldwork in north Vanuatu, primarily in the Torres Islands, and have traveled to various parts of Oceania and Asia. Additionally, during a postdoctoral period of 3-4 years (2001-2004), which was mainly sustained by support from the British Academy and the U of Cambridge, I had some experience studying and working with rural societies in Tibet, mainly among mobile pastoralist (aka nomad) populations in the south central Himalayan range of the Tibet Autonomous Region. These activities included a period of language training at Tibet University and consultancy work with several NGOs.

Salül is an informal name given to white people (literally it means ‘white man’) in the language of Lo-Toga, which is one of the two related Austronesian languages that are spoken in the Torres Islands. The Torres Islands are a micro-archipelago located in the northern border of Vanuatu, and are home to just over 1,000 people. Since 1999, the bulk of my ethnographic fieldwork and friendships have evolved in the village of Lunharigi, on Loh island.

Recently, I have also begun to prepare a new research project centred on the cultural revival, political and identity claims of the indigenous inhabitants of Rapa Nui.

At right: Overlooking Rano Kau crater, Rapa Nui, August 2010. *(inserted on 2/11/2010)

One of my interests for this initiative is to offer a fresh perspective (as a Latin America-based researcher) for Oceanic scholars regarding the relationship of the only contemporary Polynesian community living under the influence of a South American nation-state.

Below: canoeing across the saltwater lagoon that separates Loh from Linua islands, with William Collins, the local Torres Islands’ fieldworker for the Vanuatu Cultural Centre (2008).


The title of this blog is intended in playful reference to the way in which a particular small-scale society categorises those persons who do not belong to any given local lineage, have no specific ancestry and no apparent territorial identity within the local social horizon; on the other, it speaks to a more serious issue which has to do with exoticisation and distance, which are two of the various themes that I hope to touch on throughout the duration of this blog.

For more information regarding my work, visit my webpage, or jump straight to my extended CV (both currently available only in Spanish).


Sorted by type, and field/subject: (A) Anthropology, (H) History, (MC) Material Culture



“Sudden environmental change: sea level fluctuations and local perceptions of climate change in Melanesia. An assessment of a small island society in North Vanuatu.” in Kirsty Galloway McLean (ed.), Indigenous Peoples, Marginalized Populations and Climate Change: Vulnerability, Adaptation and Traditional Knowledge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, (forthcoming).

“Entre Islas y Montañas: Movimiento y geografía cultural en Melanesia y el Tibet”, In P. Fournier, C. Mondragón y W. Wiesheu (eds.), Peregrinaciones Ayer y Hoy. Arqueología y Antropología de las Religiones Vol. 4, México: El Colegio de México, 2012, pp. 419-453.

“Personas partibles, sociedades fractales. Reflexiones sobre escala y complejidad en Vanuatu”, in Berenice Alcántara y Federico Navarrete (eds.), Sociedades Amerindias: Más allás del Estado, México: Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas/Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2011, pp. 145-168.

“A Weft of Nexus: Changing notions of ‘space’ and geographical identity in Vanuatu, Oceania”, in Peter Wynn Kirby (ed.), Boundless Worlds: An Anthropological Approach to Movement. Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2009, pp. 115-134.

“Encarnando a los espíritus en la Melanesia: La innovación como continuidad en el norte de Vanuatu”, in P. Fournier, C. Mondragón y W. Wiesheu (eds.), Ritos de Paso: Antropología y Arqueología de las Religiones, Vol. 3, México: ENAH/PROMEP, 2009. pp. 121-149.

“El combate a la pobreza en China y la Iniciativa de Desarrollo de la Región Occidental (2000-2005)”, in Romer Cornejo (ed.), China. Radiografía de una potencia en ascenso. México: El Colegio de México, 2008. pp. 443-526.


“El estudio de los contactos culturales en Mesoamérica y Oceanía. Alteridad y ritual en la obra de Inga Clendinnen”, en Gustavo Marín Guzmán y Gabriela Torres Mazuera (coords.), Antropología e historia en México. Las fronteras construidas de un territorio compartido, Mérida, CIESAS Peninsula, (forthcoming)

“Reflexiones historiográficas en torno a las percepciones oceánicas durante los primeros encuentros entre europeos y melanesios en el Pacífico”, en Miguel Luque Talaván y Marta Ma. Manchado López (Coordinación y Edición), Un océano de intercambios: Hispanoasia (1521-1898), Madrid: Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores, 2008, pp. 81-99.

Miguel Luque and Carlos Mondragón (2008), “Early European Descriptions of Oceanic Watercraft: Iberian Sources and Contexts”, in Anne Di Piazza and Erik Pearthree (eds.), Canoes of the Grand Ocean. Oxford, British Archaeologigal Reports (BAR International Series 1802), pp. 9-22.

“Ethnological origins of the ni-Vanuatu “other”: Quirós and the early Spanish historiography of Asia and the Pacific”, in Frédéric Angleviel (ed.), Pedro Fernández de Quirós et le Vanuatu, 1606-2006. Nouméa, Université de la Nouvelle Calédonie, 2007. pp. 145-168.

“Visiones autóctonas y occidentales en las expediciones españolas a la Melanesia insular (1595-1606)”, in Gustavo Curiel (ed.), Orientes-Occidentes: El arte y la mirada del otro. México: Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas/Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2007. pp. 119-149.

Miguel Luque Talaván and Carlos Mondragón, “El Capitán Cook en los Mares del Sur a través de tres cartas reservadas”, in Francisco Mellén Blanco and Annie Baert, Memorias del Congreso 2006 de la Asociación Española de Estudios del Pacífico. Madrid, Asociación Española de Estudios del Pacífico, 2007.


“Powerful Torres Islands Artefacts”, in Lissant Bolton & Nicholas Thomas (eds.), The Melanesian Collections at the British Museum, London, The British Museum Press, 2012, pgs. 263-265.

“El demonio de las multiplicidades: el sureste asiático y el arte contemporáneo de Asia en el mundo”, in Entre Utopía y Distopía. Palestra Asia, México, Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporaneo, 2012, pgs. 34-47.

Carlos Mondragón and Federico Navarrete (2011), “Cai Guo-Qiang, la alquimia de lo local/Cai Guo-Qiang, the Alchemy of the Local”, in Patricia Sloane et. al (eds.), Esplendor y Soledad (Sunshine and Solitude) de Cai Guo-Qiang (Exhibition catalogue), bilingual edition, México: Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo/UNAM, México, pp. .

“Oceanía, el mar de islas: una aproximación a su cultura material”, in C. Mondragón (ed.) Moana: Culturas de las Islas del Pacífico (Exhibition Catalogue), México, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 2010, pp. 19-28.

Journal Articles


“Concealment, revelation and cosmological dualism: Visibility, materiality and the spiritscape of the Torres Islands, Vanuatu”, in Cahiers d’Anthropologie Sociale, Paris, Éditions l’Herne/College de France (forthcoming)

“Los disturbios de 2008 en Lhasa y las regiones tibetanas de China”, Estudios de Asia y África, v. XLIII, n. 136, 2008. pp. 455-476.

“Time and the expression of temporality in the Torres Islands, Vanuatu”, in Eliseu Carbonell, Revista Etnològic de Catalunya (Dossier especial: Cultures de la temporalitat), vol. 28. Barcelona, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, 2006.

“Of Winds, Worms and Mana. The traditional calendar of the Torres Islands, Vanuatu”, Oceania, 74(4), 2004.


Miguel Luque Talaván and Carlos Mondragón, “Et in Arcadia Ego: La Terra Australis y la visión utópica de Pedro Fernández de Quirós”, Anales del Museo de América, núm. 24. Madrid. Museo de América, 2006. pp. 351-380.

Miguel Luque Talaván and Carlos Mondragón, ‘Faith, fidelity and fantasy: Don Pedro Fernández de Quirós and the “foundation, government and sustenance” of La Nueba Hierusalem in 1606’, Journal of Pacific History, Vol.  40, No. 2, 2005, pp. 133–48.

Edited volumes

Patricia Fournier, Carlos Mondragón and Walburga Wiesheu (eds.), Peregrinaciones, Ayer y Hoy: Arqueología y Antropología de las Religiones, Vol. IV, México, El Colegio de México, 2012.

C. Mondragón (ed.) Moana: Culturas de las Islas del Pacífico (Exhibition Catalogue), México, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 2010.

Patricia Fournier, Carlos Mondragón and Walburga Wiesheu (eds.), Ritos de Paso: Arqueología y Antropología de las Religiones, Vol. III, México, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 2009.

15 Responses to “About me”

  1. Your blog is fascinating! I never thought I’d find someone with a job that lists “occasional malaria” as one of the perks. I sincerely would love it if you’d take a few moments to come visit me at my blog “My Cool Job” and share your passion for what you are doing with my readers. You can visit me at: http://jimsmuse.wordpress.com

    I feel like a very lucky armchair traveler indeed to have found your blog. Keep it up!

  2. What an amazing blog!
    Informative and fun- Great Work!
    I love the link to your blog, although it does make me eager to learn Spanish, as all I can do now is look at the pictures 🙂

  3. Tas cabrón pinche bato wey!!! me dejas estupefacto!!!

  4. Yeonkot Says:

    Hi Salül, I am fascinated with all your fieldwork, I am also Anthropologist, so, every line I have read makes me wonder how all those places are in real life. Anyway, I have kind of very personal question…. Where did u study Anthropology? ha!!!! and a second one, of course if u want, What sort of music do u like? Hope u send me an answer. Have a nice time wherever u are.

  5. Man you are one ugly bastard! The years have been kind!

    Sori tu mas!

  6. Well met, masta Myka. Well met, I say.

    • Ferry Basil Says:

      Hi, i am so happy to know you. I am from the group of islands in the torres. And im so glad that you have been discovering our islands. I have do have seen you when you come over to lo or loh island time when i am just a little. I am from the island of toga and you can name Alexandra Francoir, i do see him when he came to our island. Most and understandable person you can name by his work through the Torres islands. Who can just speak our local language just within a week when he came to discover it.

  7. Yu, Yu wan pikinni blong rod! Mi savvi finis!

  8. Niku T'arhechu T'arhesï Says:

    Greetings Professor Mondragon,

    I came across your blog today and anxiously look forward to reading what you have to share with the cyber world.

    Niku T’arhechu

  9. Iñaqui Sandí Says:

    Mi estimado amigo como siempre un placer saber donde andas y que haces. Muy buen trabajo!

    My estimated friend, as always a pleasure to know your whereabouts and what you do. Great job!

    Mia estimita amiko kiel ĉiam plaĉi scii kie portiloj kaj kiu faskoj. Tre bona laboro!

  10. Cynthia J De La Portilla Says:

    مدهش جدا كما هو الحال دائما، كنت باحثا رائع، ونأمل الحفاظ على نعمة الله لك في إنجازاتك. أترك لكم الحب والصداقة، على أمل في يوم من الأيام ونحن نشق طريقنا ونرى بعضنا البعض مرة أخرى

  11. Liz Jones Says:

    Dear Carlos,
    Strange request, but can I use your image of your friend with the coconut crab? Why? Well, my husband, a fishmonger in Reading UK, gives amusing talks about his life as a fishmonger, his many animals and his travels, and one of the talks involves us chasing a peeping tom in Santo, Vanuatu, about 25 years ago. Part of the story is how we were running about at night chasing this intruder and all the time worried about stepping on a crab – we didn’t have any shoes on at the time. My brother was a surgeon in Santo and we were visiting him. I have my own photograph of a coconut crab, but it isn’t as good as yours, and it’s also a little faded. My husband’s talks are not racist, political, or anything else not nice, just musings on his life, and he has a Power Point slide show going on in the background – that’s why I would like permission to show your photograph.

    • Hi Liz,

      I’m happy to grant permission for your husband to use that image. Glad to know it may come in handy.

  12. aspatos Says:


  13. […] City’s Historic Center. I was doubly privileged in receiving a guided tour from Johannes Neurath, Carlos Mondragón, and Anahí […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: