Back to Conference session list

Session Detail (parallel)

Panel 1: Pacific histories in and out of Oceania (working title)

Coordinator(s)

Harald Werber, Ato'ese Morgan Tuimaleali'ifano, Lorenz Rudolf Gonschor, Karin Louise Hermes

Session presentation

A recent transformation in the teaching of Pacific Island History has seen the underlying pedagogy, content and motivation move towards valorizing indigenous epistemologies and de-centered content in new courses, texts and awards in secondary schools, colleges and university undergraduate and postgraduate programs, in face-to-face, blended, MOOC and online modes. We invite papers that examine the concrete empirical realities of the Pacific and offer opportunities to refine our analytical lenses and vocabularies. The panel invites practitioners to demonstrate how their teaching reflects the latest historiography, utilizes the latest technologies and marries the competing histories now jostling for space on the timetable. A pivotal question addressed by the panel will be how Pacific Island Histories are being taught in both Europe and the Pacific Islands and how courses in schools, colleges and universities take account of changing environments, mobility, relatedness and the new qualities and meanings of contemporary experiences. This panel is a follow-up to the exciting papers and open panel at the PHA Guam conference which brought teaching to the fore. We now invite presenters to take centre stage again and debate/interrogate their craft, academic programs and courses, philosophical and intellectual traditions and contribute to a new interdisciplinary dialogue between research and teaching.


Paper submissions are closed



Accepted papers


Colonial heritage in Melanesian politics: a difficult dialogue with globalization and International Organizations



Jean Louis Rallu (INED)


Pacific political landscapes stem from highly hierarchical societies where changes however occurred. Colonization/Christianisation brought fiercer conflicts and reinforced patriarchal tendencies. Chiefs' authority was undermined by assessors and Teachers from secondary lineages. Colonial administration was weak, inconsistent and discriminative.

Politicians are mostly from chiefly lines supported by religious influence groups. International Organizations strive to commit conservative governments denying/minimizing such issues as gender equity: ratification of international conventions is late and law enforcement and project implementation are low. They mostly work with NGOs and civil society associations they helped create.

PICs have the lowest rates of female parliament members of world's regions. UNWomen initiated the Advancing Gender Justice project to upgrade national legislations to international standards, increase access to justice and women’s participation in leadership. But women are rarely elected, because of negative gender stereotypes used by male candidates and their support teams, based on a strong public opinion on women's role.

The paper will analyze historical changes in traditional 'politics' and relations and discourses between the various actors in Melanesian politics as regards Human Rights and development policies in gender and youth issues.

History of Islam in the Pacific



Philip Cass (Unitec)


The geo-political situation arising from the invasion of Iraq and the emergence of ISIS has drawn attention to the existence Islam in the metropolitan countries and island nations of the Pacific. However, Islam has a long history in the region, going back to at least the 17th century. Drawing on a range of sources, this paper traces the history of Islam in the Pacific, showing that for most of the period under consideration, Muslims generally went unremarked because the number of its adherents was so small and their homes so scattered. However, there have been periodic crises when Islam has come into the public consciousness, including the Sudan campaign, the attack on a mining train in Broken Hill by two Afghanis in 1915, the continuing brutal occupation of West Papua and the arrival of a Libyan diplomat in Vanuatu. In the Pacific island territories Muslims have been almost invisible outside Fiji where they first went as indentured labourers. In more recent times, however, Islam has emerged as a missionary religion in the islands, with converts in many countries, including Papua New Guinea and Tonga.

Victorian elitist and martyr for aloha ʻāina: The complex personality of Hawaiian diplomat Henry F. Poor



Lorenz Rudolf Gonschor (University of Hawai'i-Manoa)


Henry F. Poor (1856-1899) was one of Hawai‘i’s prime diplomats, being dispatched on a circumnavigation in 1883-1884 and to Sāmoa in 1886-1887. Of both aboriginal Hawaiian and New England Puritan descent, Poor’s life exemplifies the cultural and political tensions inherent in late nineteenth century Hawaiian Society. Situating himself within Victorian upper class culture, he could be harsh in his judgement of other people and societies. Yet at the same time he displayed an unwavering commitment and loyalty to his native country, for which he was imprisoned by the post-1893 regime and died within a few years afterwards, joining the ranks of Hawaiian martyrs sacrificing their life for aloha ‘āina. Poor’s travel writings, published partly in Hawaiian and in English in the Kingdom’s leading newspapers, which the author is currently-co-editing, provide insights into the thought and personality of this complex character.

“Only a palangi would have kept this.”: scoping a personal archive of Tongan environments.



Roger Charles Cowell (rccHorizonScanning)


“Only a palangi would have kept this.”
[A youth in Ha’alalo, Tongatapu, listening to twenty year-old recordings of ‘kava club’ in that village].
Visiting and revisiting rural and urban environments in Tonga– around Ha’alalo, Ha’akame,‘Utulau and Houma villages,and the capital,Nuku’alofa-during nearly fifty years,the researcher has accumulated a personal archive of sound recordings,images and notes. He has used a small number of these in academic work,in direct personal and social media communications with Tongan friends,but the majority of items have not yet been shared or used publicly in any way.
Firstly,the researcher makes a short review of the personal archive,to describe its nature and scope.
Secondly,he shares selected items of sound,image and text,to show continuity and change in several locations.
Thirdly,he suggests establishing open access archives,so communities and researchers may freely use and interpret aural, visual and written records of Oceanic environments.
In conclusion,the researcher speculates that such archives could enrich current and future expression of local, national and regional identities,so anyone,not“only a palangi would have kept this….”

Genealogical ties in geographical space



Martin Soukup (Charles University in Prague)


Objective of the paper is a presentation of the fieldwork results that was conducted among members of the Nungon community, Morobe Province of Papua New Guinea. The fieldwork was focused on studying the effects of selected historical events on spatial behavior of members of the Nungon community. The two particular historical events – the religious conflict and the relocation of a village to a new place – are continuously affecting the daily life of the community. Two principal methods were combined during the fieldwork: a construction of genealogical ties in the community and mapping of geographical space of the village. This research design resulted in the construction of spatially expressed genealogical ties of the community. The author will argue that it is possible to see the effect of the aforementioned events in geographical space of the village. The aim of the paper is to present the methodology enabling study of expression of historical events and social relations in geographical space.

Recentering anarcho-indigenous narratives and Hawaiian epistemologies on the relation to the land



Karin Louise Hermes (Humboldt University of Berlin)


As a way of introduction, in Hawai'i and in greater Oceania, genealogy is paramount. I would begin by naming my parents, grandparents, and narrate their place-based origins to root my identity. Genealogy is the story of oneself in relation to ancestors. Tellingly, in Hawaiian the word for "story", mo'olelo, is the same as for "history". What is also the same word in translation is 'ike: "to see", "to know", "to feel". In short: knowledge and one's own history is the accumulation of an experience of senses. In a non-linear conceptualization of time, in Hawai'i you look into the past to guide you into the future, as the past holds wisdom and the knowledge of the ancestors (Kame'eleihiwa 1992).
Here, it is my kuleana to recenter and amplify indigenous histories as a non-indigenous scholar. More specifically, I recount the narratives by indigenous women, who embody the responsibility to the land, the Earth Mother Papahānaumoku. Manulani Aluli-Meyer summarizes the kinship to the land and one another as experiences of "spiritual continuity", placing "'āina as origin, 'āina as mother, 'āina as inspiration" (Aluli-Meyer 2001). I analyze the enduring conflict in translation and understanding Hawaiian epistemologies for outsiders, who according to Haunani-Kay Trask "can never know what we know, or feel what we feel, about our mother, the land. Thus does history – and genealogy – separate our politics, and our analysis." (Trask 1996).

Navigating Kuleana in Hawaiian Protest Music



Min Yen Ong (School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London)


During pre-missionary times, Hawaiian music served mainly religious and historical functions. However, in the 19th and 20th Century, with the penetration of Western culture, chant and hula became divorced from their traditional contexts, leading to fundamental changes in their performance and context. With the degeneration of Hawaiian traditions, came the second Hawaiian Renaissance in the 1970s, and since then, there has been a resurgence in Hawaiian culture and music and a re-discovery of the Hawaiian identity, which is felt to be the result of the bestowing of kuleana unto native Hawaiians by their ancestors. In this paper, I argue that Hawaiian musicians are using music as a platform to display the resistance and injustices felt by the Hawaiian community towards the US occupation. I examine the use of kaona (hidden meaning) within songs and musicians’ views on how kuleana features in their identity and music-making processes. In addition, I also analyse the relationship between promoting indigenous rights and the sovereignty of the Hawaiian Kingdom, through contested places such as Kahoʻolawe and Mauna Keā, and how music plays an instrumental role to the Hawaiian community by serving as a platform to display political discontentment.

Through Pacific lens to empower success in contemporary tertiary education environments.



Dr Vaoiva Natapu-Ponton (AUT Auckland University of Technology)


Through Pacific lens, significant cultural models have proliferated within the last
decade arguing that a cultural analysis of Pacific students, knowledge, values and
beliefs are imperative to empower them to succeed in the tertiary environments.
Traditionally, education environments have been Eurocentric. They have reinforced
‘pedagogy of the oppressed’ where western models are reflected in the university
curriculum and ways of learning and teaching. Recently, there has been a
proliferation of more culturally appropriate models being applied to the education
sector. A review of these studies suggests that culturally relevant models can coexist
in the current educational tertiary education setting. Given that a majority of
students in the sector are first in family to be studying at university, and that often
they are amongst a wave of first and second generation migrants, cultural norms
need to be addressed if our students are to feel included within the sector. This
paper argues that cultural pedagogies integrated into mainstream revealed
successes that warrants recognition. A review of these studies demonstrate that
traditional models can co-exist with western models in education environments to
empower and enhance Pacific success.

Decolonising Geography education in New Caledonia



Matthias Kowasch (University of Graz)


Since the negotiation of a renewed agreement in 1998 France has generally maintained an innovative approach concerning the decolonisation of New Caledonia (Fisher 2013). The Noumea Accord defers a vote on independence and provides the transfer of all political competences to the Pacific territory, except sovereign powers. Primary and secondary school education have been transferred in January 2012. But while “colleges” and “lycées” are in the responsibility of New Caledonia, the French state still pays the salaries of the secondary school teachers.
The education issue is delicate, because the French education system was a major issue in the period of violent struggles in the 1980s. Most of the 30% of students who drop out of the school system are Kanaks (Maclellan 2009). Kanks represented only 23% of candidates for the high school degree exam in 2009 (Nouvelles Calédoniennes 22/3/2010).
Starting from 2017, Kanak culture is teached 18 hours a year three times in a school life. Despite of the efforts that have been made to promote Kanak languages and culture in school, the present paper questions the decolonisation of school education by taking the example of Geography. How does Geography textbooks discuss Kanak culture? And how does Geography teachers (who also teach history) deal with indigenous issues in the mirror on the ongoing decolonisation process?
The results rely on a textbook analysis and interviews with Geography teachers in New Caledonian secondary schools.

Many Stories, One History? Thoughts and concerns about suitable topics to teach in pacific history



Harald Werber (University of Salzburg)


From my experiences as lecturer of Pacific history in Europe as well as in the South Pacific I draw a lot of different impressions and idea about what can be considered relevant for students of both sides. On the one hand side the paper will focus on these aspects of diverse audiences and groups of learners. On the other side it will try to answer the question what can be seen as a Pacific history, who cares for or who is interested in which part of the history. So the conclusion tries to answer what can be and what should be taught about the Pacific islands.
The memories and stories of the past of the Pacific islands and its people vary greatly and are only seen as a united matter form a external perspective. Within Oceania there are many different expectations and independent impressions and discourses to be reflected and taken into account. But then there are common experiences that could possibly be considered a Pacific history.