Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 performative experiment, to sail a raft from Peru to Polynesia, was lauded as a feat of ingenuity and endurance. Largely undertreated is the racially motivated theory undergirding Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki project—that the first settlers in Polynesia were a race of bearded, white-skinned supermen who remained deities in both South American and Polynesian mythology. Contemporary commemorations, however, emphasize feel-good stories of human achievement over Heyerdahl’s racist performance.

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