Pacific Studies Initiative Syllabi & Bibliographies



Syllabi & Bibliographies

Internet Resources

The Politics of Pacific History


Coordinator: Teresia Teaiwa
History and Politics
School of Social and Economic Development
University of the South Pacific
Box 1168

For both non-majors and majors this course provides a stimulating introduction to critical issues in studies of the Pacific Islands. It also functions As a general overview of historiography— familiarizing students with debates around the politics of writing history, "grand" political events as struggles in history, structuralist and institutional views of history, and personal as well as collective reclamations of history. The course is structured into modules which explore in depth some of the History/Politics department lecturers' particular interests. (This course outline, then, is not fixed but open to change and revision each year). Guest lectures and film documentary screenings will be featured in the course.

Required readings:
I . Course Reader--to be purchased in the USP Book Centre
2. Reserve Readings--in the USP Library, Reserve Desk and/or Pacific Collection
3. Handouts--to be distributed during lectures

Course Assessment:

Attendance: (5%)
In this course, you will actually be looking forward to lectures and tutorial discussions. Occasionally, however, you may find it difficult or impossible to attend lectures or tutorials. Please inform the course coordinator of your situation beforehand, if possible, but certainly afterwards. Unexplained absences are cause for concern.

5 Short topic papers: (25%)
In 3-4 pages, write an essay or letter which reflects on the topic, guest lecture, readings and video for the week. Use at least one page to summarize the main points, but the rest of the paper should communicate what you think about these points and how they were made--do you find them interesting, useful, or problematic? Explain why.

You are required to do five short topic papers; you must do at least one in each module. Read the course outline carefully to choose the weeks for which you will be doing your short topic papers.

Mid-semester Test: (10%)
Consider this intense exercise for your brains! You will be involved in formulating your own test questions as well as evaluating your own answers!

Student Presentations: (20%)
This is an opportunity for you to show how much you know about a topic in Pacific history or politics, or to explore a new topic that attracts your curiosity. The presentation may be in the form of a work of art, dance, literature/poetry, or scholarship, but must include both a verbal and written interpretation, explanation, and justification of the work. The presentation should be no more than ten minutes. You will be stopped by a timer. Your presentation will be assessed on a) two consultations with the course coordinator before the presentation, b) clarity of the presentation, c) use of audio or visual aids, d) audience interest; e) written version. Your presentation constitutes a significant percentage of your grade—therefore it needs to be the very best that you can do. Start thinking about and preparing your presentation early on in the semester. All presentations will be made during lecture periods in the last two weeks of the semester.

End of Semester Exam: (40%)
This is a more formal 3 hour exam. but it will be comprised of identification and short-answer questions as well as essay questions. If you have kept up with your readings, attended lectures. participated fully in tutorials. and raised questions with your course coordinator, you will do well!

Course Outline:

Week 1
Introduction and Overview

No Tutorials

Week 2
Module 1: Studying Ourselves or Studying Others?

In this module we will be exploring notions of what constitutes the "self " and what constitutes the "other," especially in light of the many and mixed identities in the Pacific Islands. How much familiarity can we assume with what may seem to be "our" pasts; how much familiarity can we assume with the pasts of "others"? What can we lean? from studying "our" pasts? What can we learn from studying the pasts of "others "?

Malama Meleisea, 'O Tama 'Uli (On Reserve); Kiribati: Aspects of History (On Reserve); Greg Dening, "History in the Pacific," in The Contemporary Pacific 1(1/2):134-140. (In Reader)

Tutorial Exercise:
"Putting yourself in someone else's shoes"

Week 3
Guest Lecturer: Doug Munro
Topic: Insider/Outsider Politics in Pacific History

Who is better qualified and who is more entitled to research and write Pacific history? This is a contentious issue. Is the involvement of Europeans and other "outsiders" not a contradiction in terms? Are Pacific Islanders better equipped to write Pacific history than someone from another culture? Can anyone hope to properly understand another culture? In short, who "owns" Pacific history? These are the basic questions that we will address.

J.W Davidson, "Problems of Pacific History," in Journal of Pacific History, vol. I (1966), 5-21 (In Reader)
Finau O Kolo, "Historiography: The Myth of Indigenous Authenticity," in Tongan Culture and History: papers from the 1st Tongan History Conference held in Canberra 1417 January 1987, P Herda, J Terrell and N Gunson (eds), (1990) 1-11 (On Reserve)
Doug Munro, "Who 'Owns" Pacific History?: reflections on the insider/outsider dichotomy", Journal of Pacific History, 28:2 (1994), 232-37 (In Reader)
David Routledge, "Pacific History as Seen from the Pacific Islands," in Pacific Studies, 8:2 (1985) (In Reader)

Tutorial Exercise:
"Listening and Hearing"

Week 4
Guest Lecturer: Morgan Tuimaleali'ifano
Topic: Indigenous Ways of Knowing

Can anyone claim to know anybody else without knowing themselves? The Island-oriented school of Pacific history asserts the centrality of the native view in Pacific history writing A major rationale for this is that it enables historians to re-dress the imbalance caused by imperial history. This begs the question, what is an Island point of view? Amongst oral-based societies in the Pacific Islands, indigenous traditions of knowing existed. If such traditions are accepted as the primary sources of knowing, what were their bases and how did they differ from other sources in the developing world? While traditions of knowing depended on oral transmission, how do they differ from Western-oriented systems of knowing? How much do Islanders know about them? We address the issue of what constitutes a native view and how native Islanders have contributed to its formulation. What factors help or hinder the process? In short, how do we know what we know?

Gavan Daws, "On Being a Historian of the Pacific," in J. A. Moses (ed), Historical Disciplines and Cultures in Australasia: An Assessment (Queensland, 1979) (On Reserve)
Sione Latukefu, "The Making of the First Tongan-born Professional Historian," in Journeys and Transformation, 1992. (In Reader)
Malama Meleisea, "Pacific Historiography: An Indigenous View," in Journal of Pacific Studies, vol. 4 (1978). (In Reader)
K. Narayan, "How native is a 'Native' anthropologist?" in American Anthropologist, September 1993. (On Reserve)
O.H.K Spate, "The Pacific as an artifact," in N.W. Gunson (ed), The Changing Pacific. essays in honour of H.E. Maude (Melbourne, 1978). (On Reserve)

Tutorial Exercise:
"Reading History in Other Texts"

Week 5
Module 2: Oppression and Liberation in Pacific History

In this module we will explore some key events and mechanisms of oppression and identify movements of resistance and liberation. How has power been used by people and institutions in the Pacific? And to what ends?

"Alter/native Readings":
10,000 maniacs "Hateful Hate" (Handout)
Israel Kamakawiwo'ole "Hawaiian Superman" (Handout)
Survival "Rua Kenana" (Handout)
Sia Figiel, "Siniva," from "Where We Once Belonged" (In Reader)
Ann Stephen, "South Pacific Stories: A Photoessay." (In Reader)
Susan Cochrane, "Art in the Contemporary Pacific" and "Modernism or Folk Art? The Reception of Pacific Art in Europe" by Eva Ch. Raabe (On Reserve).

Teresia K. Teaiwa, "Scholarship from a Lazy Native."

Tutorial Exercise:
"Picturing History"

Week 6
Guest Lecturer: Ian Cowman
Topic: Nuclear Weapons Testing in the Pacific

In 1946 the United States decided to look for a test site for their recently developed atomic weapon. They stipulated three criteria: the area had to be outside mainland US territory, it had to be relatively uninhabited, and it had to be remote. The area chosen was Bikini atoll in the Pacific. Various powers followed the Americans down the nuclear road: the British, the French, the Chinese and the Russians have all tested nuclear weapons in the Pacific. We will examine those tests and the sometimes devastating results on the inhabitants of the Pacific.


Read selectively from: Desmond Ball, Chasing Gravity's Rainbow (Canberra, 1994). Denys Blakeway, Fields of Thunder: Testing the British Nuclear Bomb. Bengt and Marie Danielsson, "The Nuclear Murder of Moruroa," The Bulletin vol. I 04 ( 1984). Jane Dibblin, Day of Two Suns: US Nuclear Testing and the Pacific Islanders (New York, I 990). Stewart Firth Nuclear Playground (Honolulu, 1987). Norman Moss, Men Who Play God (London, 1968).(On Reserve)

Tutorial Exercise:
"Discovering the Pacific Collection"

Week 7
Guest Lecturer: Robert Nicole
Topic: Resistance Movements

This is an introduction to basic power relationships in the Pacific which discusses manifestations of resistance to dominance and exploitation. At the core is a broad/general survey of past and current anti-colonial movements in the Pacific including Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Palau, West Papua, and other sovereignty movements in New Zealand, Guam, Hawaii, Australia, etc. The survey includes manifestations of indigenous resistance to traditional hierarchies, women's resistance to indigenous and western forms of male dominance, labour and anti-nuclear movements and expressions of resistance through art, music and other cultural means.

David Robie, "Introduction," from Blood on their Banner, (Leichhardt, 1989). (In Reader)
Haunani-Kay Trask, "Introduction" and "Kupa'a 'Aina: Native Nationalism," from From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawai'i. (Monroe, Maine, 1993) (In Reader)

Excerpts from Denis O'Rourke's film on PNG Independence and "Half-Life"; excerpts from Puhipau's "Act of War" and "Tribunal."

Tutorial Exercise:
"Forms of protest and resistance"

(mid-semester test)
(mid-semester break)

Week 8
Module 3: The Structures behind Everyday Life

This module examines some of the underlying structures which influence directions in Pacific history, focusing especially on economics. It attempts to explain the broader implications of some of the things we take for granted in everyday life.

Selection of Dinesh Shankar's Fiji Times articles (Handouts), "The Discovery of the Gift: Exchange and Identity in the Contemporary Pacific," excerpt from Nicholas Thomas' Entangled Objects (Cambridge, Mass 1991) (In Reader); Epeli Hau'ofa, "The Tower of Babel," from Tales of the Tikongs. (Suva, 1993) (In Reader); Excerpts from 'Atu Emberson-Bain's Sustainable Development or Malignant Growth?, (Suva: 1994) (In Reader)

Excerpts from Denis O'Rourke's "The Shark-Callers of Kontu" and "Cannibal Tours"; Excerpts from "Joe Leahy's Neighbours" and "Black Harvest."

Tutorial Exercise:
"Arm/chair Histories"

Week 9
Guest Lecturer: Jonathan Fraenkel
Topic: Postcolonial South Pacific Economies

How can we characterize the modem economies of the larger economies and micro-states in the South Pacific? Are there common features, and if so, what are they? Some authors have looked at smaller South Pacific states as locked into a postcolonial dependence on the former colonial countries, based around migration, aid and remittances. Others view the region as marked by a 'subsistence affluence' potentially resistant to ties to the world market, or as highly vulnerable due to the lack of resources to sustain high growth in populations. In this session, we aim to disentangle myth from reality and examine some of the key elements influencing the recent economic history of the South Pacific states.

I.G. Bertram and RF. Watters, "The MIRAB economy in the South Pacific Microstates," Pacific Viewpoint, 27:1 (1985). (In Reader)
B. Knapman, "Economic Development and Dependency," in Kerry Howe, Robert Kiste and Brij Lal (eds), Tides of History: The Pacific Islands in the 20th Century, (Honolulu, 1994). (On Reserve)
C. Tisdell and T.I. Fairbairn, "Subsistence Economies and Unsustainable Development and Trade: Some Simple Theory" in Journal of Development Studies. 20, 2. (In Reader)
R.F. Watters, "Mirab Societies and Bureaucratic Elites," in Hooper et al (eds) Class and Culture in the South Pacific, Suva 1987. (On Reserve)

Tutorial Exercise:
"Mapping Family Economics"

Week 10
Guest Lecturer: Sandra Tarte
Topic: Tuna Politics in the Pacific

One of the most important economic resources in this region is tuna. From the perspective of the Pacific Island states, it is one of the only resources of consequence that provides employment, export earnings, and foreign exchange from the sale of access licenses to foreign fishing fleets. Because of tuna, Pacific Island countries also receive significant amounts of foreign aid, especially from Japan. We focus on the way the tuna issue has defined Pacific Island states' relations with powers, especially Japan and the US, and the way this issue has defined regional cooperation in the South Pacific. It considers such questions as who owns the region's tuna resource and who should be responsible for managing it. This is a very contemporary debate, given recent changes to the Law of the Sea regime.

Doulman, David J. "Japanese distant-water fishing in the South Pacific," in Pacific Economic Bulletin 4(2):2 8, (1989) (On Reserve)
Gerry Geen, "Tuna Industry Development in the South Pacific: A Coordinated Approach." Development Bulletin (1994) 3911.(In Reader)
"This is FFA," in Islands Business February, 1997.(In Reader)
Martin Tsamenyi, "The South Pacific States, the USA and Sovereignty over Highly Migratory Species," Marine Policy (1986) 29-41. (On Reserve)

Tutorial Exercise: Debate: "The Pacific Ocean: Spiritual Source or Economic Resource?"

Week 11
Module 4: People's History and Personal Histories

After having looked at the ways in which history is studied and written some political events in Pacific history and economic structures we will attempt to see how history belongs to "the people" and not just to the past or to the academy. We will compare biographical histories and cultural histories in the hopes of also coming to some understanding about individual and collective agency in history.

Donald Denoon, "People's History," Inaugural lecture, UPNG, 17 April 1973. (In Reader)
Epeli Hau'ofa, "Rediscovering Our Sea of Islands," in A New Oceania edited by Vijay Naidu, Eric Waddell, and Epeli Hau'ofa. (In Reader)
Sudesh Mishra, "Lila," in Meanjin. (In Reader)
Jonathan Kamakawiwo'ole Osorio, "Songs of Our Natural Selves: The Enduring Voice of Nature in Hawaiian Music." (Guam, 1992) (In Reader)
Haunani-Kay Trask, "From a Native Daughter," in The American Indian and the Problem of History. (In Reader)
Teresia K Teaiwa, "Yaqona/Yagona: The Roots and Routes of a Displaced Banaban." (In Reader)

Rabuka, "No Other Way"; Pacific Islanders in Communication, Happy Birthday Tutu Ruth directed by Anne Marie Kirk, (1996).

Tutorial Audio: Jonathan Kamakawiwo'ole Osorio, "Songs of Our Natural Selves."

Week 12
Guest Lecture: Susan Kotoisuva-Sela
Topic: "Reclaiming Lami"

Excerpts from Susan Kotoisuva Sela, Reclaiming Lami unpublished manuscript. (Handout)

Tutorial Exercise:
Writing: "Ourselves in Geography, Demography and Architecture"

Week 13 Student Presentations


Week 14 Student Presentations

Revisions and Course Evaluation

[Subject: History; Cultural Studies]

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