The Contemporary Pacific, vol. 15, no. 1 (2003)

TCP 15.1 cover imageAbout the Artist: John Pule

Editor’s Note

The Pacific Islands


Decolonizing Pacific Studies: Indigenous Perspectives, Knowledge, and Wisdom in Higher Education, p. 1
Konai Helu Thaman

As part of a larger effort to reflect critically on the nature, scope, and processes of colonialism in Oceania, decolonizing the field of Pacific studies must focus on the impact of colonialism on people’s minds—particularly on their ways of knowing, their views of who and what they are, and what they consider worthwhile to teach and to learn. It is essential to challenge the dominance of western philosophy, content, and pedagogy in the lives and the education of Pacific peoples, and to reclaim indigenous Oceanic perspectives, knowledge, and wisdom that have been devalued or suppressed. Modern scholars and writers must examine the western disciplinary frameworks within which they have been schooled, as well as the ideas and images of the Pacific they have inherited, in order to move beyond them. The curricula of formal education, particularly higher education, should include indigenous Oceanic knowledge, worldviews, and philosophies of teaching and learning, for several reasons: to contribute to and expand the general knowledge base of higher education; to make university study more meaningful for many students; to validate and legitimize academic work, particularly in the eyes of indigenous peoples; and to enhance collaboration between indigenous and nonindigenous peoples.
Keywords: decolonization, globalization, indigenous worldviews, pedagogy, Pacific education, Pacific Islands studies

Beyond “the English Method of Tattooing”: Decentering the Practice of History in Oceania, p. 19
David Hanlon

Questions abound as to the very nature and meaning of history in contemporary Oceania. Much conventional scholarship in the Euro-American world continues to focus on the search for a single, knowable, verifiable past. The recent disturbance of conventional academic practices by ethnographic and theoretical investigations into the practice of history has helped make space for the reemergence of more local histories. However, acute tension arises as more local expressions of the past struggle against the still alien, potentially neocolonizing dimensions of these more hospitable academic perspectives. Multiple, varied, and contentious indigenous expressions regarding the past suggest that what has come to be understood as history in the West may not be history to, for, or even about the peoples of Oceania. Vernacular as well as appropriated forms of history in the region must be appreciated. The decentering of the practice of history in Oceania requires a recognition that writing—“the English method of tattooing”—is but one form of historical expression.
Keywords: colonialism, decolonization, discourse, historiography, indigenous scholarship, Oceania, Pacific history

Between Knowledges: Pacific Studies and Academic Disciplines, p. 43
Edvard Hviding

In this paper, I critically examine a number of notions about interdisciplinary research approaches to the challenges posed by the world today. I juxtapose this critique with a discussion of interdisciplinary developments in Pacific studies, raising questions as to how deeper dialogues between academic disciplines and the worldviews of Pacific Islanders may be reached. While interdisciplinarity is widely seen as a politically correct agenda for contemporary research on processes of globalization and development, caution is needed against prevailing optimism about the potential for solving multidisciplinary problems through interdisciplinary innovation. Such optimism may overrate the potentials of broad (as opposed to deep) research approaches and may reflect disregard, if not arrogance, toward the complexity of the matters addressed. The drive in some European countries for research on “sustainable development” indicates close ties between interdisciplinary aspirations and the bureaucratic ambitions of research administrators. Under such circumstances interdisciplinarity becomes an object of institutional conflict and internal debate between institutions, as well as between bureaucrats and scientists, more than a question of creative epistemological contact between plural knowledges in and beyond academic disciplines in a search for increased knowledge more generally. The avoidance of such pitfalls in the further development of Pacific studies requires close attention to and appreciation of initiatives from within Oceania, coming from beyond the domains of conventional disciplines. In this paper, such paths toward interdisciplinarity are exemplified in a discussion of epistemological encounters between Oceanic and western knowledges, and with reference to the emerging currents of “Native Pacific Cultural Studies.”
Keywords: anthropology, globalization, indigenous epistemologies, interdisciplinarity, Pacific studies, research policy

Interdisciplinary Approaches in Pacific Studies: Understanding the Fiji Coup of 19 May 2000, p. 75
Vilsoni Hereniko

The reasons behind Fiji’s military coup of 19 May 2000 are complex, and cannot be fully understood on a purely rational or empirical level. An interdisciplinary approach that embraces culture and history, informed by fiction, poetry, and drama, as well as personal experience, offers insights into Fijian-Indian relations. In this paper I explore the nature and usefulness of the interdisciplinary process in helping to make sense of a specific event in Fiji’s history; I also seek to better understand the guiding principles that might inform future interdisciplinary research and writing. This does not mean that the approach here is necessarily applicable to understanding other similar events or topics. My primary goal is not to lay down principles set in stone but rather to stimulate discussion and debate on interdisciplinary approaches to Pacific studies.
Keywords: coups, interdisciplinary process, Fijians, Indians, George Speight, racial prejudice

Honoring the Past and Creating the Future in Cyberspace: New Technologies and Cultural Specificity, p. 93
Marsha Kinder

After tracing my academic journey from eighteenth-century English literary scholarship to new media production, I interweave three discursive strands: descriptions and demonstrations of several experimental interdisciplinary projects being produced at the Labyrinth Project, a research initiative on interactive narrative that I direct at the University of Southern California Annenberg Center for Communication; five general principles learned while making these projects; and tentative suggestions about how they might be applied to Pacific Island studies. Despite the diversity of works presented (Mysteries and Desire: Searching the Worlds of John Rechy, an interactive memoir about gay Chicano novelist John Rechy; The Danube Exodus, a museum installation developed in collaboration with Hungarian filmmaker Péter Forgács; The Dawn at My Back: a Memoir of a Black Texas Upbringing, a DVD-rom based on an autobiography by African-American photographer Carroll Parrott Blue; an e-learning course on Russian Modernism with an online role-playing game at its center; a computer game for teens called Runaways; and a website called Dreamwaves), all adhere to five basic principles: honoring the past, emphasizing conceptualization over technical mastery, taking a collaborative approach to interface design, searching for culturally specific metaphors, and leveraging the transformative potential of database narratives.
Keywords: database narrative, e-learning, interactive narrative, interactivity, interface design, Labyrinth Project, narrative

Net Gains? Pacific Studies in Cyberspace, p. 117
Terence Wesley-Smith

The paper explores how the Internet can be used to enhance the quality of teaching and learning in Pacific Islands studies. It does so with reference to an experimental web-based interactive module that linked classes at University of Hawai‘i and Canterbury University in fall 2000 as part of the Ford-funded project, Moving Cultures: Remaking Asia-Pacific Studies. The paper argues that such interactive pedagogies can be used to redress some of the power imbalances apparent in the field of study and help accelerate an ongoing process of decolonization.
Keywords: cyberspace, decolonization, interactive learning, Pacific Islands studies, pedagogy

Future Directions for Pacific Studies, p. 139
Stewart Firth

Pacific studies in Hawai‘i and possibly New Zealand, and certainly Hawaiian and Maori studies, are mostly conceptualized as projects of cultural renaissance, in which the aim is to reclaim and reassert cultural identity. The fundamental research question becomes How can we understand the Pacific in ways that honor the past and reclaim the future for uniquely Pacific Island ways of doing things? In the independent Pacific and in certain other places such as the Australian National University, Pacific studies tends to be conceptualized more, though not exclusively, as a project of modernization and development, and the fundamental research question becomes How can we understand the region in ways that will make people better off?

These two central paradigms of Pacific studies, both of which contribute to our understanding, derive from different historical experiences, above all in the degree to which foreign influence altered or preserved tradition. Events in Melanesia are an important part of the contemporary political background against which we must ponder the future of Pacific studies, and the outlook there is less positive than in Polynesia and Micronesia. There will be less room in the future for romanticism about Melanesian tradition and more inclination to examine the endless ways in which Melanesians use tradition to serve modern ends.

In imagining how a Pacific studies consortium might work, the emphasis should be on exchanges of every kind: of information over the Internet, of staff, of courses and simulations, and of students.
Keywords: consortium, culture, Melanesia, modernization, Pacific studies, tradition


Micronesia in Review: Issues and Events, 1 July 2001 to 30 June 2002, p.150
Anne Perez Hattori, Samuel F McPhetres, Donald R Shuster

Polynesia in Review: Issues and Events, 1 July 2001 to 30 June 2002, p. 174
Frédéric Angleviel, Tracie Ku‘uipo Cummings, Kerry James, Jon Tikivanotau M Jonassen, Margaret Mutu


Remembrance of Pacific Pasts: An Invitation to Remake History, edited by Robert Borofsky, p. 198
Reviewed by Gina Balawanilotu, Anurag Subramani, and Robert Nicole

Government by the Gun: The Unfinished Business of Fiji’s 2000 Coup, by Robbie Robertson and William Sutherland, p. 203
Reviewed by Roderic Alley

Perilous Memories: The Asia-Pacific War(s), edited by T Fujitani, Geoffrey M White, and Lisa Yoneyama, p. 205
Reviewed by Lin Poyer

Fighting the Enemy: Australian Soldiers and Their Adversaries in World War II, by Mark Johnston, p. 208
Reviewed by Hugh Laracy

In Colonial New Guinea: Anthropological Perspectives, edited by Naomi M McPherson, p. 210
Reviewed by Frederick Errington

Ethnographic Artifacts: Challenges to a Reflexive Anthropology, edited by Sjoerd R Jaarsma and Marta A Rohatynskyj, p. 211
Reviewed by Claudia Gross

Dancing Through Time: A Sepik Cosmology, by Borut Telban, p. 215
Reviewed by Joel Robbins

Stories from the Marshall Islands: Bwebwenato Jan Aelon Kein, by Jack A Tobin, p. 216
Reviewed by Michael A Rynkiewich

Reimagining the American Pacific: From South Pacific to Bamboo Ridge and Beyond, by Rob Wilson, p. 219
Reviewed by Susan M Schultz

A Remarkable Journey, by Lady Carol Kidu, p. 221
Reviewed by Regis Tove Stella

Chalo Jahaji: On a Journey through Indenture in Fiji, by Brij V Lal, p. 224
Reviewed by Sudesh Mishra

Dauka Puram, by Subramani, p. 226
Reviewed by Brij V Lal

Faces of the Spirits: The Sulka People of Papua New Guinea, p. 229
Reviewed by Naomi M McPherson

Ke Kulana He Mahu: Remembering a Sense of Place, p. 231
Reviewed by Ty Tengan