Finding Background Information: Island Studies

In addition to the Institute of Island Studies at UPEI, there are a number of other scholarly and scientific groups actively engaged in Island Studies research that share publications, news, and other significant information through their Web sites. These include:

The Global Islands Network 
The Global Islands Network is a non-profit organisation established to conduct and promote, on islands worldwide, development that is: "culturally appropriate; ecologically sound; economically sustainable, [and]; socially equitable." To that end, the GIN Website offers a current digest of islands-related news from around the world, and the largest online directory available of island-related websites, indexed by nation, region (North Atlantic, Pacific, etc.), and theme. 

The International Small Islands Studies Association
ISISA is a voluntary, non-profit and independent organization, dedicated to: "study[ing] islands on their own terms, and to encourag[ing] free scholarly discussion on small island related matters such as islandness, smallness, insularity, dependency, resource management and environment, and the nature of island life." 

The Small Island Cultures Research Initiative
SICRI was established to" facilitate communication and collaboration between researchers and cultural practitioners working with small island communities. SICRI’s principal aim is to research and assist the maintenance and development of the language, literature, music, dance, folkloric and media cultures of small island communities." Of particular interest on its Web site are the full-text proceedings of its International Conference on Small Island Cultures, held annually since 2005.

Note: The Institute of Island Studies maintains a listing of other organizations involved with islands / small states research on its Links page (see "Additional Resources") .


Background Information: Reference Books
When you are doing research on a topic, you will often encounter unfamiliar terms and concepts, or familiar ones used in a specialized way. ENCYCLOPEDIAS and other reference books provide background information on unfamiliar subjects, leading you quickly to key ideas and sources in developing your topic. Reference books covering Island Studies topics include:

Encyclopedia of Islands -- Print volume in Library Reference Collection (Call #: GB471.E53 2009); E-book online here* and here*    (*UPEI credentials required)
A single-volume encyclopedia offering more than 200 entries -- most with maps / illustrations and recommendations for further reading -- on, "the physical and biological aspects of islands and island habitats".  The selection of topics and locales covered is wide-ranging, but by no means exhaustive: some islands are dealt with as geographical groupings (e.g. Antilles) rather than as specific political jurisdictions, and many smaller islands are not discussed at all. The book is certainly not a "one-stop shop," then, but it can suggest many interesting and accessible entry points to, and connections within, the study of islands. A detailed topical index in the back of the volume helps pinpoint specific content (and the e-book editions are keyword-searchable).  

Island studies : critical concepts in geography -- Print volume in Library Reference Collection (Call #: GB471.I8 2016); Not available as e-book
A reference anthology of literary and scholarly writings about islands, from the 8th Century BCE to 2014. The four volumes are arranged in chronlogical order: Volume I: Navigating an Island World to Utopia: Until 1516 / Volume II: Charting from Utopia to Modern Science: 1516 to the 1880s / Volume III: Heading for Island Studies: the 1880s to the 1990s / Volume IV: Venturing Beyond Nissology: Third-Millennium Island Studies. A detailed topical index in the back of Volume IV helps pinpoint specific content.  

The Pacific Islands : an encyclopedia -- Print volume in Library Reference Collection (Call #: DU17.P3 2000); Not available as e-book
This single-volume encyclopedia organizes its entries into seven broad thematic sections -- Physical Environment, Peoples, History, Politics, Economy, Society, and Culture -- followed by profiles several dozen islands (notably, Pacific Ocean islands adjacent to the Americas are not included). About half the entires include maps and/ or illustrations, and most offer a few suggestions for further reading.  A detailed topical index in the back of the volume helps pinpoint specific content.  


Background Information: Worldmark Encyclopedia
A recurring challenge in Island Studies is that it often entails research into locales and jurisdictions for which limited published information may be available: the islands in question may have been deemed too small, remote, or generally "unimportant" to attract much attention from researchers and writers (and publishers). While two-plus decades of vigourous development of Island Studies as a discipline has certainly improved this situation, finding a reasonably reliable written introduction to some islands -- beyond the vagaries of Wikipedia -- can still be a challenge. A helpful tool in this regard is the Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations (available as an e-book * UPEI credentials required): although not specific to Island Studies, it offers detailed entries -- supported by maps, statistical tables, and bibliographies -- for more than 190 countries, including dozens of island nations. The 13th edition offered via the Library is now slightly dated (2012), but remains an excellent "backgrounder" source for most of the world's independent island jurisdictions. 


Background Information: Government and UN Publications
Islands that are larger and relatively prosperous are often administered by governments that actively compile and disseminate statistical and other research information about the juridistions under their control. Indeed, many islands are served by multiple levels of government -- national, provincial / territorial, and local -- all of which may engage in some online publication activity: Prince Edward Island and Hawaii are two notable examples of islands for which a relatively abundant and reliable mix of information from national, provincial / state, and (to a lesser extent) local governments is available. Becoming familiar with the websites  -- including online publication / reports libraries, statistical databases, etc. --  of the governments administering any island you are researching in depth should be an early research priority, and the Island Studies Subject Librarian will be pleased to assist you in this regard. Relatedly, your level of familiarity with at least one of the official languages in which these governments operate is an important consideration. That said, many islands are within the jurisdiction of governments that lack the capacity or inclination to freely share any significant quantity of useful information online. This is especially the case for jurisdictions that are economically-disadvantaged and / or where human rights, including freedom of speech and inquiry, are systemically curtailed by government. In such cases, the publications of the United Nations may offer at least some baseline data. Two notable titles in this regard are:

United Nations Statistical Yearbook -- Print volumes, 1991-2012, in Library Reference Collection (Call #: HA12.5.U63); selected highlights from all years, 1948 - present, are freely available via the UN Statistics Division website 
Seeks to provide, "in a single volume a comprehensive compilation of internationally available statistics on social and economic conditions and activities, at world, regional and national levels". 

United Nations Demographic Yearbook -- Print volumes, 1948-2011, in Library Reference Collection (Call #: HA17.D45); all volumes, 1948-present, are freely available via the UN Statistics Division website
Has some overlap with the Statistical Yearbook, but with a much stronger focus on vital statistics and other social / demographic data, including: "population size and composition, births, deaths, marriage and divorce, as well as respective rates, on an annual basis. The Demographic Yearbook census datasets cover a wide range of additional topics including economic activity, educational attainment, household characteristics, housing characteristics, ethnicity, language, foreign-born and foreign population.

Created by: Simon Lloyd, B.A., M.L.I.S.
Island Studies Liaison Librarian
Phone: 902-566-0536
Date Created: 30-September-2010

Date Updated: 15-September-2021

Not specified