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Session Detail (parallel)

From the ‘Pacific Way’ to a ‘Sea of Islands’: contending visions of Oceania?

Coordinator(s)

Stephanie Lawson

Session presentation

This panel takes its cue directly from the suggestion that the spirit of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara’s ‘Pacific Way’ and Epeli Hau’ofa’s vision of an Oceanic ‘Sea of Islands’ have come to characterize Pacific Islander perspectives on their region and its future, and that these reflect a demand from Pacific Islanders to define their own perspectives and priorities in their connections with Europe. Does this imply a convergence of perspectives between Mara’s and Hau’ofa’s visions and can we identify a unified view of both Oceania and its (European) ‘others’? Or are there tensions between the two visions? If so, do these reflect broader tensions across the region? How has the rise of sub-regionalism impacted on Oceanic identity? How do national identities interact with regional or sub-regional identities? To what extent are Australia and New Zealand considered as outposts of European civilization and contrasted with an Oceanic self? What implications do any of these issues have for the mediation of a Pacific or Oceanic identity in the context of inter-regional relations?


Paper submissions are closed



Accepted papers


Contending Regionalisms in Oceania



Stephanie Lawson (Macquarie University)


The spirit of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara’s ‘Pacific Way’ and Epeli Hau’ofa’s vision of an Oceanic ‘Sea of Islands’ are said to characterize Pacific Islander perspectives on their region and its future, and that these reflect a demand from Pacific Islanders to define their own perspectives and priorities in their connections with Europe. This further suggests a certain convergence of perspectives between Mara’s and Hau’ofa’s visions, producing a compatible, if not unified, view of both Oceania and its (European) ‘others’. The paper examines both visions with a view to critically appraising the similarities and differences between these visions, and examining how they have contributed to the mediation of a Pacific or Oceanic identity in constructing both the self and other in the context of regional and inter-regional politics. It also examines the phenomenon of subregionalism configured around the Polynesia/Melanesia/Micronesia divide and the implications for broader issues in identity politics in Oceania.

Navigating some shoals of Pacific journalism: How do resurgent oceanic epistemologies impact on journalism practice in liquid modern Vanuatu, Samoa and New Caledonia?



Marie M'Balla-Ndi (James Cook University)


This paper investigates the impact of resurgent oceanic epistemologies on journalism practice in three South Pacific countries; namely Vanuatu, Samoa and New Caledonia. This research examines some developments of oceanic epistemologies in a liquid modern context and presents examples of how these epistemologies affect the work of local journalists.

This study uses a theoretical strategy that combines Bauman’s concept of liquid modernity with resurgent oceanic epistemologies. The theoretical approach used in this study represents a unique contribution to knowledge: it is the first substantial attempt to use liquid modernity in the region when looking at journalism practice, and this study suggests considerable amendments to the concept of liquid modernity in order for it to be deployed in non-Western post-colonial contexts such as the Pacific Islands.

Three qualitative research techniques (participant observation, in-depth interviews and archival examination) were used to collect the data presented in this study. A Geertzian thick descriptive approach and thematic analysis were employed to explore and question the data in relation to the research questions.

The findings of this study show that it should not be assumed that journalism practice in the South Pacific is a mere reflection of journalism as we define and understand it in the West. The respondents’ perceptions of journalism and of what defines and affects journalism practice in their countries deeply differ from common Western views of journalistic practices.

In the three sites under study, local and traditional values, beliefs and protocols affect journalists’ work on a daily basis, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. The tensions between modern and traditional ways are mediated by ni-Vanuatu, Samoan and New Caledonian journalists in their practice on a daily basis. These tensions are either accommodated, negotiated or contested.

Polish Perspectives on the Pacific: Prospects for Building Cooperative Relations



Joanna Siekiera (University of Wroclaw)


The distance between the Republic of Poland and the Pacific island states, in both a geographic sense as well as in socio-economic circumstances, is immense. Even so, there is a significant interest in Warsaw in establishing and maintaining political connections in the region, the most recent manifestation being the establishment in March 2015 of diplomatic relations with the Republic of Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia. However, there is a much longer relationship between New Zealand and Poland dating back to the 1930s. Accordingly, Wellington perceives Warsaw as a bridge between the European Union and Eastern Europe. Conversely, by building cooperation with each country, bilaterally, Poland builds relationships not just with individual counties but at a regional level too. Academic interest in such developments is relatively new and therefore scarcely analysed to date. The purpose of this paper is to analyse how Poland perceives Pacific island states and to therefore start developing an intellectual agenda for future research.