Working Session: Decolonising Sea of Islands
Organizers: Nuhisifa Williams and Tevita O Ka‘ili
Jules Dumont d'Urville (1790 - 1842) was a French explorer credited with the division of the islands in the Pacific Ocean into three distinct regions - Melanesia (black islands), Polynesia (many islands) and Micronesia (small islands). D’Urville based his divisions on his observations of the characteristics of the people and their social structures as well as the geography of the islands. The three regions were hierarchically ordered with Polynesians judged the most civilized in terms of their socio-political institutions whilst Melanesians were the least civilized and considered barbaric in nature.
These classifications were useful boundaries that underpinned the science of Pacific ethnology and the study of the Pacific islands and its people, and to carve up the Pacific between colonial powers of the US, France and Great Britain.
Significantly, these divisions gave rise to new formations of identity that still exist today and which are problematic socially and culturally, politically and economically. This informal session explores the impact of the “imaginary lines across the sea… that confined ocean peoples to tiny spaces” and whether there is a case for ocean peoples to critically reflect on our “sea of islands', rather than islands in the sea” (Hauofa, 1993).
For more information, contact Nuhisifa Williams <firstname.lastname@example.org>