The Contemporary Pacific, vol. 23, no. 1 (2011)

The Contemporary Pacific 23.1 cover imageThe Pacific Islands, v

About the Artist: Niki Hastings-McFall, vii


Navigating the Revival of Voyaging in the Marshall Islands: Predicaments of Preservation and Possibilities of Collaboration
Joseph Genz, 1

Abstract: Endeavors to preserve esoteric domains of cultural knowledge in Oceania face severe challenges. Paradoxically, revitalization projects risk recontextualizing specialized knowledge and this weakens its cultural significance. In this article, I draw attention to the complexities of this predicament by providing ethnographic details on an ongoing voyaging revival in the Marshall Islands. I examine the competing cultural imperatives to simultaneously safeguard knowledge-based positions of identity, maintain deferential relationships with chiefly authority, and revitalize the cultural heritage. The navigational knowledge is being carefully guarded within families despite, or perhaps because of, decreasing numbers of custodians of a unique wave-based voyaging tradition. Now, Marshallese are navigating through unknown routes to uncover knowledge that has been lost, forgotten, and fragmented, and this suggests possibilities for new models of collaborative research that are sensitive to the politics of culture and tradition as they address the practices of cultural recovery.
Keywords: indigenous knowledge, voyaging, navigation, cultural revival, ethnographic collaboration, Marshall Islands

Pacific Women Building Peace: A Regional Perspective
Nicole George, 37

Abstract: Contemporary analysis of Pacific Islands regionalism is commonly focused on the institutional realm and examines how frameworks of regional governance have evolved and been strengthened. This article, by contrast, provides insight into the less well understood political content of more informal modes of Pacific Islands regional integration. In particular, it examines Pacific women’s regional peacebuilding collaborations since the 1960s and 1970s. It demonstrates the political impact of Pacific women’s collective responses to conflict in the region during the past forty years while also discussing the varying nature of this activity over time. Consideration is therefore given both to Pacific women’s differing conceptual approaches to peacebuilding and to the differing geopolitical scope of their regional peacebuilding networks. The significance of this discussion is two-fold. First, this research provides insight into the history of “bottom-up” forms of regional engagement in the Pacific, a realm of political activity that might, if more broadly recognized, positively complement existing programs that aim to secure future security in the Pacific through regional institutional consolidation. Second, it challenges conventional perspectives on women and peacebuilding that tend to suggest that women respond to conflict in ways that are singular, homogenous, and marginal to the political mainstream.
Keywords: Pacific regionalism, women, peacebuilding, Pacific security, advocacy

“Our Ancestors that We Carry on Our Backs”: Restaging Hawai‘i’s History in the Plays of Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl
Diana Looser, 73

Abstract: During the past twenty years, Hawaiian dramatist and museum educator Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl has become established as one of the foremost playwrights working in the contemporary Pacific. Since the mid-1980s, a dominant strand of Kneubuhl’s oeuvre has involved a critical examination of Hawai‘i’s colonial history, using various forms of theatrical performance to interrogate historical injustices and characterizations of Hawaiian culture that erase or overwrite indigenous epistemologies, offering restorative models and, in some instances, stimulating efforts that bring about material social change. This paper surveys six of Kneubuhl’s historiographic works produced during the 1980s and 1990s, highlighting varied dramaturgical strategies employed to engage the cultural past in order to address contemporary concerns. The discussion distinguishes two broad theatrical genres arising from Kneubuhl’s training and work experience: historical “plays for the theatre,” which incorporate fictional or fantastic elements and are designed for repeated performance within the aesthetic and commercial frame of amateur or professional theatre production; and her “living history programs,” site- and occasion-specific performances based more directly on documentary sources and developed in consultation with historians, with a stricter pedagogical purview and a tendency toward a more realist style of presentation. This overview of Kneubuhl’s plays and programs foregrounds the important cultural interventions effected by her work during the last two decades, and contributes to an investigation of the various uses of performance in helping to construct indigenous histories in Oceania, while engaging in a broader dialogue about the ways in which theatre functions actively within the postcolonial Pacific.
Keywords: Victoria Kneubuhl, Hawai‘i, Pacific drama, historiography, indigenous histories


Becoming a “New” Museum? Contesting Oceanic Visions at Musée du Quai Branly
Margaret Jolly, 108

Abstract: The Musée du Quai Branly (MQB) has been the focus of passionate debates in scholarly and public media in France and globally, since even before its opening in June 2006. These debates have often polarized advocates of divergent aesthetic and ethnographic approaches to museum practice, although some argue this is a false dichotomy and that the MQB has the future potential to realize a “double vision.” Yet both approaches have their discursive origins in EuroAmerican scholarship and museological practice, and effecting a genuinely “double vision” must surely confront the question of the relation of objects in museums and galleries to living peoples and especially the descendants of the creators of such objects / subjects. This essay explores this question in relation to MQB displays of Oceanic art, in particular the Pacific and Indigenous Australian art in the permanent collections and in the fabric of Jean Nouvel’s building. It juxtaposes the museum’s credo “where cultures converse” with the voices of Oceanic curators in dialogue at a conference held in association with the Polynésie exhibition in June 2008. It suggests that becoming a “new museum” is predicated not just on the rhetoric of an equality of arts, but also on people becoming engaged in more respectful relations of dialogue and exchange.
Keywords: museums, Oceanic art, Indigenous Australia, France, aesthetics, ethnography, repatriation

On Location at a Nonentity: Reading Hollywood’s “Micronesia”
David W Kupferman, 141

Abstract: The subject of “Micronesia” has rarely figured in Hollywood’s cinematic lexicon, but when it does it is usually relegated to the exotic backdrop of the familiar colonial screen. By employing two Deleuzean cinema analytics that consider realism as well as monumental, antiquarian, and ethical historical representations in film, I closely “read” three Hollywood movies spanning fifty years of subjectivizing “Micronesia” in the social cinematic imaginary. Such a reading of His Majesty O’Keefe (1953), starring Burt Lancaster and set in Yap; Nate and Hayes (1983), starring Tommy Lee Jones and set partially in Pohnpei; and Windtalkers (2002), starring Nicholas Cage about the battle of Saipan, allows us to consider both the various “truths” about Micronesia that Hollywood produces and what the functions of those truths are. Finally, the paper takes into account Deleuze’s conception of minor cinema as well as his notion of fabulation in order to offer a counter discourse to the popular Hollywood displacement of “Micronesia” both from the public imaginary and from the islands and Islanders themselves.
Keywords: Micronesia, film, representation, Hollywood, Gilles Deleuze, minor cinema

political reviews

Micronesia in Review: Issues and Events, 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010
John R Haglelgam, David W Kupferman, Kelly G Marsh, Samuel F McPhetres, Donald R Shuster, Tyrone J Taitano, 172

Polynesia in Review: Issues and Events, 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010
Lorenz Gonschor, Jon Tikivanotau M Jonassen, Margaret Mutu, 209

book and media reviews

Oceanic Encounters: Exchange, Desire, Violence, edited by Margaret Jolly, Serge Tcherkézoff, and Darrell Tryon
Reviewed by Erin Cozens, 244

Moving Images: John Layard, Fieldwork and Photography on Malakula since 1914, by Haidy Geismar and Anita Herle
Reviewed by Margaret Jolly, 246

Surviving Paradise: One Year on a Disappearing Island, by Peter Rudiak-Gould
Reviewed by Monica LaBriola, 249

The Global Health Care Chain: From the Pacific to the World, by John Connell
Reviewed by Penelope Schoeffel, 252

Gossip and the Everyday Production of Politics, by Niko Besnier
Reviewed by Susan U Philips, 253

Homealani [documentary film]
Reviewed by Marata Tamaira, 256

Twelve Days at Nuku Hiva: Russian Encounters and Mutiny in the South Pacific, by Elena Govor
Reviewed by Max Quanchi, 258

Ancestral Lines: The Maisin of Papua New Guinea and the Fate of the Rainforest, by John Barker
Reviewed by Aletta Biersack, 260

The Insular Empire: America in the Mariana Islands [documentary film]
Reviewed by James Perez Viernes, 262