Pacific Island Studies

Contact:  
Erin Suzuki,  Literature
Faculty  and Staff  Participants:
Yen Le Espiritu,  Ethnic Studies   
Kamala Visweswaran, Ethnic Studies 
Simeon Man, History
Wendy Matsumura, History
John D. Blanco, Literature 
Cristela Garcia-­‐Spitz, Library Special Collections 
Graduate  Student Participants:   
Sang Eun (Eunice) Lee,  Literature    
Trung Le, Literature  
Olivia Quintanilla, Ethnic Studies   
Keva Bui, Ethnic Studies
Greg Gushiken, Ethnic Studies
Riley Taitingfong, Communication
Elizabeth Bullard, Biology

Asia-­Pacific  and transpacific  studies are poised  for an “oceanic turn”:  a critical reckoning with  the roles that Pacific ocean  environments and Indigenous Pacific communities have played in the construction  of, and resistance to, the many global networks  that both connect and imaginatively shape the region.  The Pacific Islands (also known as “Oceania”) have formed  an absent presence in the transnational policies, organizations,  and partnerships that focus primarily on the nations of the “Rim”—such  as the Asia-­‐Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Trans-­‐Pacific Partnership  (TPP). Yet with our growing awareness of how the permanent and long-­‐ term effects of  militarization, consumer waste, and climate change have begun to physically manifest both  throughout the region and around the globe, transpacific scholarship cannot to afford to ignore  their critical impacts on Pacific Island communities and ecologies, nor those communities’ strategies  for survival in the face of colonization, occupation, and cultural and environmental change.

This  group brings  attention to the  intertwined relationships  between the communities of  the Pacific “Rim” and the Pacific  Islands. In particular, we are interested  in how histories of colonialism, imperialism,  and economic partnership have both been built  upon and contested by Pacific Island cultural and  community formations; how questions of Indigenous sovereignty  in sites like Hawai‘i and Guam are connected to questions of  demilitarization in sites like Okinawa, South Korea, and the Philippines;  and in exploring the entanglement of human communities and their environments  in the Pacific region (including how Indigenous Pacific aesthetics, practices, and  epistemologies might offer ways of thinking creatively about climate change and environmental  stewardship). Covering themes and topics such as militarism, tourism, overfishing, cultural imperialism,  and resource extraction, we propose to approach these interconnected issues through different disciplinary  lenses, including ethnographic study, archival practice, literary analysis, and biological research. In so doing,  we aim to center the cultures, communities, and environments  of the Pacific  itself within the  fields of Asia-­‐Pacific  and transpacific studies.

Through  the creation  of this group,  we seek to create  a home and a space  for scholars from a number  of different disciplines who are  interested in studying the politics,  aesthetics, history, and environments of  the Pacific Ocean and Pacific Islands. While  we currently draw our faculty representatives from  predominantly humanities and social science departments  (Literature, History, and Ethnic Studies) we hope to expand  the group to reach out to faculty working in Environmental Sciences,  Biology, and at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. We propose to use   the funds from the International Institute to fund one or two working group   meetings per quarter, where we will present and workshop works-­‐in-­‐progress and   discuss readings on the topic; and ideally we will be able to bring in one or two   scholars, activists, or writers dealing with Pacific Islands issues to campus. If possible,  we would additionally like to earmark a modest amount for community-­‐ related activities, aimed  at outreach to Pacific Island community organizations, such as Che’lu (Chamorro cultural organization)  and the Pacific Islander Festival of San Diego. (A more detailed and itemized list of budget items  is listed below.) Overall, we hope that the Pacific Islands Studies group will help UCSD serve as a home  for a growing and dynamic field, to become both a hub for scholarship about the Pacific and its Islands, and  a resource for Pacific Islander communities in San Diego.