Mapping and Unmapping the Pacific: Island Perceptions of an Oceanic Continent

by on 週四, 31 三月 2011 11449 點擊 評論
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Rediscovering our sea of islands was a momentous paper written by Epeli Hau`ofa, the most influential Pacific scholar of his age (read here), where he laid out his ideas for a new Oceania. Indeed during this conference it seemed like the Pacific had rediscovered the lost island of Taiwan and Taiwan had rediscovered the ocean. Mapping and Unmapping the Pacific: Island Perspectives of an Oceanic continent was the first international conference held by the newly established Taiwan Society for Pacific Studies and it undeniably reaffirmed Taiwan’s position geographically on the edge, but spiritually as a core part of the Pacific. While in February we covered Taiwan's indigenous peoples and Taiwan's specific role in the Pacific with our Focus, Turning East, Taiwan's Pacific Frontier, in this April Focus we are given a smorgasbord of insights and perspectives on the wider oceanic continent.

Uniting our sea of islands in the face of common struggles

The Austronesian family has long been scattered and restricted in their movements - through colonialism and then through the constraints due to the nation-state and the paradoxical ‘pass'-port system. Yet during this two day conference and as the guests visited Austronesian communities in Taitung, there was rejoicing as they were finding their long lost relatives - recent research suggests that the Austronesian language family spread out into the Pacific from Taiwan. The most influential Pacific scholars joined the growing network of Taiwanese students of the Pacific in this attempt at 'remapping' the Pacific. Grant McCall went on to explain the historical attempts to 'map' the Pacific and gave his own suggestion for a linguistic division by 'nesias' before showing that the Pacific is nonetheless connected on a Möbius Strip of knowledge; Francis X. Hezel shows how Christianity can still be a tie that binds the Pacific together along with Arthur Leger S.J. who claims that the Catholic Church can be a force to keep Oceania from falling off the map; Hamashita Takeshi offers suggestions for a peaceful future for East Asian engagement in the Pacific through a union of coastal cities which transcends national definitions and rivalries and Katerina Teiwa explains that the Pacific is united by its diversity and which is expressed in their arts and culture festivals and exchanges.

Whether it be culturally, economically, academically or politically a common theme throughout the 2-day conference was the need for a degree of autonomy. While Ta-chuan Sun (Paelabang Danapan) presented his final propostion for Taiwan's indigenous movement, Vilsoni Hereniko compared the what he had seen of the indigenous situation in Taiwan with the plight of indigenous Hawaiians, commenting that all the way accross the ocean the struggle was the same - to be free, indigenous peoples must have cultural autonomy. Indigenous peoples must be masters of their own future, then as custodians of the ocean, they can unite in order to face up to the growing environmental crises, drawing on traditional wisdom which dictates harmony with nature.

Renaissance Oceanie

As Hamashita Takeshi points out in Learning from Ryukyu the world has much to learn from the Pacific. What we observed at this conference was that the Pacific can go beyond mere cooperation in the face of common struggles. In times often dominated by selfish nationalism on country to country basis, the concept of Oceania offers an alternative world view which could be as promising as when Europe declared it would never have intra-wars again with the creation of the EU. The Pacific offers fusions of traditional culture and modern society as well as ideas that transcend the prevailing nation state concept.

One of the last major obstacles to overturning the Pacific's colonial legacy is building narratives and education indigenous to the Pacific. In this spirit, Pierre Maranda presented the ambitious project, a type of intranet encyclopaedia which works through the concept of "attractor" and "attractor basins" to remap Oceania thought as well as advancing new media in the field of anthropology. Many of the conference participants were trying to flout new narratives, that transcended western academic traditions such as Yedda Palemeq with her papers expressing the different notions of time between Western academic thought and Austronesian thought and Nakao Eki whose is attempting from her PhD to offer produce work based from an Amis historical narrative with her concept of the Inbetweeners.

Many other speakers at the conference offered new innovative perspectives; for example, Patrick Savage combines his musical background with his anthropological interests in his presentation on the possibility of using music as a marker for Austronesian migrations. The critical point was that the conference laid out a new roadmap, from this point forward, their would closer networking, a sharing of ideas, innovation and mutual respect, borrowing Grant McCall's concept "we are all connected by a Möbius Strip of knowledge".

We give thanks to all the speakers and those who partook in the organisation of this conference, including the young volunteers who kept the show running (see video below). Special thanks goes to Paul Farrelly and Conor Stuart for their enthusiastic support in documenting the event and helping disseminate information through to the public.

Alternative (for readers in China)

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最後修改於 週三, 08 一月 2014 17:34
Nick Coulson (聶克)

I was born in sunny Torbay on the south western coast of England's green and pleasant lands. I'm prowling the streets, parks and ruins of Taiwan hunting for absurdities and studying the sociology of the underground. Furthermore with our nomadic arts and action space "The Hole" we attempt to challenge rigid and alienating structures.






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