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

Worlding Narratives in and across Oceania 

Paul Lyons, University of Hawaii, Manoa

By juxtaposing early-to-mid nineteenth century U.S. discourses about globalization in and across Oceania—often involving Pacific Islanders--with accounts of travel and settlement by Pacific Islanders, this paper considers intersecting perspectives on nineteenth century globalizing or worlding processes, ways in which peoples saw their worlds as expanding and/or existentially threatened. 

Proposal: 

By juxtaposing early-to-mid nineteenth century U.S. discourses about globalization in and across Oceania—often involving Pacific Islanders--with accounts of travel and settlement by Pacific Islanders, this paper considers intersecting perspectives on nineteenth century globalizing or worlding processes, ways in which peoples saw their worlds as expanding and/or existentially threatened. The paper will begin with a brief discussion of early-to-mid nineteenth century American discourses on globalization, which in literary works are often found in depictions of nodal points of globalization—ships, harbors, work camps in and around Oceania. Although the word “globalization” was not yet in circulation, the Pacific in particular was increasingly thought of as illustrative of the processes linking East and West in a prophesied completion of the circle of the modern world. My paper then considers several scenes of intercultural relation: Richard Henry Dana’s discussion of work camps with diverse laborers in the tanneries near San Diego in Two Years Before the Mast, and Herman Melville’s accounts of new cultural formations in New Bedford and Honolulu in Moby-Dick and Typee. Street and crowd scenes in particular figure the excitement, anxiety, and comparative racialism that often attended thinking about globalization. Alongside white American representations of new cultural formations in the making, so heavily marked by the contexts of imperial and settler colonial expansion, the paper looks at Pacific Islander accounts of movement in and across Oceania, of which there is a growing archive. These include personal papers, travel accounts of Hawaiian royalty, writings of indigenous missionaries, letters home from Pacific Islander migrants, and editorials in Pacific Island newspapers on commerce and international politics. Finally, the paper concludes by suggesting challenges and potentials of regarding as “bound together” (in Greg Dening’s sense) histories, where influences and affiliations take often unexpected forms. The aim is to contribute to narratives of worlding processes in Oceania that are coming into view in new ways within post-Americanist and archipelagic frames.