115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Where is Oceanic Literature?: A Digital Map of Coalition and Circulation

Rebecca Hogue, University of California, Davis

Through a digital mapping project, this presentation will examine what regions within and around the Pacific frame Oceanic Literature. What are the environmental, political, social, and aesthetic factors that lead to these definitions and connections? What are the stakes of these coalitions and circulations?

Proposal: 

What counts as Oceanic literature? Or more specifically, where is Oceanic literature? In the 1970s, Samoan writer Albert Wendt advocated in “Towards a New Oceania” that “our quest should not be for a revival of our past cultures but for the creation of new cultures which are free of the taint of colonialism and based firmly on our own pasts.” By the 1990s, after over two centuries of imperial / capitalist / neoliberal expansion and extraction, Tongan scholar Epeli Hauʻofa argued to reorient the Pacific as “Our Sea of Islands,” one not focused on each island’s smallness, but the vastness of the ocean, and inspired by the Pacific art of navigational wayfinding, identifying the Pacific as “the pathway to each other and everywhere else” (58).  I argue that his reinscription of the Pacific Islands as what he called “Oceania,” with the sea as connection instead of separation, also invited a return the environment as a central component and connector of indigenous experiences and epistemologies. Through a digital mapping project, this presentation will examine what regions within the Pacific—whether the Pacific Ocean, Pacific Rim, Polynesia, Micronesia, Melanesia, Australia, or even Asia—are included in the changing identities and conceptualizations of “Oceanic literature” over time.  What are the environmental, political, social, and aesthetic factors that lead to these definitions and connections? What are the stakes of such coalitions? How are these delineations and relations important for our work as literary scholars, for literary circulation, or for indigenous self-determination?