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THE ISLAND of Malekula, in north Vanuatu, has for long been recognized as a locus classicus for the occurrence of organized male homosexuality. Deacon, who carried out his field researches in 1926, was the first to publish a reasonably detailed account of the highly institutionalized variety that occurs among the Big Nambas in the north. But it was Layard, who had worked at a much earlier period on the nearby offshore islands of Vao and Atchin, who subsequently incorporated Deacon’s data into an early attempt to appreciate the theoretical significance of the practice. Though homosexual behaviour as such did not appear to occur in the Small Islands, Layard noted the presence of dramatized representations on the part of ancestral spirits in the context of the boys’ compulsory initiation rites. He attempted to provide some explanation for variations such as these but was seriously constrained by the inadequacies of his part-evolutionary and part-diffusionist premises.


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