Archaeological constructions of past identities often rely more or less explicitly on contemporary notions of culture and community in ways that can sometimes oversimplify the past and present. The archaeology of European colonialism has shown the proliferation of 'hybrid' identities that emerged from relatively recent cross-cultural encounters (though this concept is not without its critics). We argue that this perspective can also inform interpretations of the deeper past, with specific reference to ongoing research in the Polynesian Outliers of Futuna and Aniwa, south Vanuatu. Polynesian Outliers represent precisely the kinds of cross-cultural spaces where hybrid identities likely emerged during the pre-European era. A theoretical approach drawing on archaeological approaches to hybridity and ethnogenetic theories applied to the south Vanuatu Outliers allows for a clearer understanding of the roles difference and familiarity played in identity formation in the past.