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Use your lecture notes as the basis for your Hawaiian Culture Analysis Essay (3-4 pages + Works Cited Page)

· You are encouraged to use multiple critical theories, critiques, and connections when analyzing different parts and aspects of the Hawaiian Culture.

Must have 4+ sources (3 or more from the STU online library), use 3rd person active voice, MLA format, 12 pt, double spaced, clear discussion/arguments, smooth transitions, sources cited within the essay, a works cited page (which does not count towards your written pages), and student must analyze various (more than 2) parts in order to complete your analysis and conclusion for your discussions/arguments.






Planet Ocean

Disturbed, muddy with conflict, vexed by latent animosities of history and regional
struggle, the South China Sea has become “Asia’s Roiling Sea” as a New York Times
editorial has elaborated the stakes and danger: “The sea is not only an important
trade route but is also rich in oil, natural gas, fishing and mineral resources. Nations
are fighting over islands and even specks of rocks to stake their claims.” These
Pacific Rim islands and their adjoining national territories and coasts—from China,
Taiwan, and Japan to Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Korea, and the Philippines—are
once again getting caught up in the roiling waters of geopolitical power struggle.
For the ocean, past and present, remains unamenable to territorial demarcations
of national border or marine sovereignty. This larger geo-territorial struggle pre-
sumes what is now called “the competition for dominance in the Asia-Pacific
region” over which the United States, since World War II, has maintained uneasy
hegemony. “The Pacific is big enough for all of us,” blithely declared US Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton at the 2012 Pacific Forum in Suva, which did not satisfy
China, not to mention the smaller interior Pacific countries wary of such unifying
Rimspeak.1 The ocean as a space of planetary interconnection remains riddled with
these antagonisms of political, territorial, and commercial conflict.

At the same time, the ocean, figured as a planetary element necessary to sus-
taining life and earthly well-being, could become a means to envision ecological
solidarity and planetary concern. To do so, however, the ocean would have to be
reframed in terms that elicit consent and inspire an imagination of co-belonging,
mutual interest, and ecopoetic care. The ocean could come to signify a bioregional
site of coalitional promise as much as a geopolitical danger zone of antagonistic
peril, as this chapter will explore. But for this to happen, we need to see ourselves as
oceanic citizens as much as earth-dwellers connected in a Gaia-like wholeness: such
authors of oceanic ecopoetics from Gary Snyder and Epeli Hau’ofa to Craig Santos-
Perez and Juliana Spahr can help to disturb the environmental unconsciousness and

Oceania as Peril and Promise
Towards Theorizing a Worlded Vision of Transpacific

Rob Wilson
































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262 Rob Wilson

historical amnesia that too often reign across the Pacific. We need to push towards
what Masao Miyoshi called, in a quasi-prophetic essay at the end of his collection
Trespasses, a vision of environmental commonality that would help overcome dif-
ferences and conflict: Miyoshi calls this emergent vision of the “global environ-
ment” a “planet-based totality.”2 The ocean needs to figure in a more worlded vision
of planetary totality set at the core of a transnationalized cultural studies de- and
remapping these oceanic entanglements.3

“Earth is a misnomer. The planet should be called Ocean,” Ed DeLong has
urged along these world-altering lines, registering a marine microbiologist’s sensi-
bility for the ocean as shared planetary fluid that comprises some 90 percent of our
biosphere.4 Threatened with techno-human endangerment and systemic distortion
as in the effects of global warming, the ocean calls out for a broader planetary reck-
oning as species origin, instrument, analogue, and end. As Steve Mentz has declared
in his call for a “blue cultural studies,” literature can help us to see how the ocean
has been figured forth both “as a challenge to empirical understanding on the one
hand, and seeing it as a divine Absolute, a God-space that humankind can see but
not understand on the other.”5 Whales, dolphins, coral reefs, and marine appeal
for a more worlded sense of co-dwelling that connects beings across various scales
of lung/brain/blood/water/air linkage. “This connection of everyone with lungs” is
how American poet Juliana Spahr puts this imperiled planetary wholeness of land
and ocean, tracing forces of biopolitical relationship across the militarized waters
and polluted airs that extend from the United States Pacific Command centered at
Pearl Harbor in Hawai‘i to the Manhattan ruinations of the Atlantic post-9/11.6

Juliana Spahr’s frame-shifting book Well Then There Now (2011) offers another
work of experimental ecopoetics, trenchantly oceanic in the way it situates Hawai‘i
(as well as Manhattan as an Atlantic island) not just in relation to the Native
Hawaiian sovereignty struggle and “local literature” multiculturalist movements but
also in relation to global forces like arctic melting, species extinction, and resource
extraction.7 Spahr challenges the first-personal plural “we” of Robert Frost’s man-
ifest-destiny territorialism from his canonical poem “The Gift Outright,” showing
how US-centric claims such as “this land was ours before we were the land’s” fall
apart in relation to an occupied native space in Oceania like Hawai‘i.8 But, more
broadly, Spahr offers a trans-oceanic vision of planetary interconnection, indict-
ing her own and “our” consumptive and polluting patterns from Ohio to O‘ahu
to Manhattan: “They often lived on an island in the Pacific and they often lived
on an island in the Atlantic. Lake Chubsucker. They thought of these two resi-
dences of theirs as opposites although both were places of great economic privilege
and resources, places that themselves consumed large amounts of resources and
consumed more and more resources all the time. Lake Sturgeon.”9 The “unnamed
dragonfly species” and myriad fish are named as endangered species, threatened
with death by us-and-them binaries, local and global ties, near and far relations that
are overlain, or “Things of each possible relation hashing against one another,” as

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Oceania as Peril and Promise 263

she names this systemic process of interconnection in another poem.10 Land and
ocean frames clash and yet (as she puts it) hash together as discrepant perspectives
endangering the planet, and thus call out for a multi-relational trans-scalar vision
of commonality that could inform a remapped “transnational American studies.”

Still, as Carl Schmitt had argued during the global struggles for space and place
in the Nazi-led Germany of World War II, “Man is a terrestrial, a groundling,” a
being whose deeply inscribed nomos of modernity measures social belonging in
terrestrial-territorial terms long tied to an international nation-state system since
the Treaty of Westphalia.11 We derive our very sense of position and horizon, our
poise, figure, and height from earth-dwelling not to mention the earth-burial of
the body.12 Schmitt posits our primordial commitment to earth in a study of spatial
regimes called Land and Sea (1942), wherein he tracks the modern sense of “plan-
etary space” and feeling for global unity to oceanic foundations initiated in the
European imperial expansion into the Americas and across the Pacific into Asia.
Venice, Portugal and Spain, Holland, then England, and, lastly, the transoceanic
United States have mastered commercial and military sea power as a mode of taking
transborder dominion. Such countries were extending earthly modes of earthly
belonging into less easily inscribed watery realms that can blur, flow, and overcome
mapped borders and mess up coastlines.13 It is this oceanic mastery that figures
from Hegel to Alfred Mahan saw as central to shaping world power down to the
aerial mastery of World War II.14 It is this drive to spatial domination for military
and commercial purposes that compels others to posit, narrate and imagine into
solidarity other, more non-imperial, archipelagic, oceanic, or postcolonial modes of
“worlding the Pacific” across what has come to be called Oceania.15

Postmodern citizens dwell all the more so in a liquid modernity that can allow
capital and power to slip, elide and bypass older forms of territorial containment
or marine sovereignty.16 Given our mediated instantaneity and the transborder
fluidity of internet connectivity, we “surf ” in a transoceanic cyberspace of global
interconnection. Increasingly dematerialized as such cyberspace beings, we exist
on the verge of “forgetting the [material] sea” as a site of co-belonging, resistance,
and co-history, as Allan Sekula documents in pictorially uncanny works like Fish
Story (1995) and The Forgotten Space (2011).17 The living ocean, in many sites, still
remains the unthought as such. We can forget this material-semiotic ocean even
dwelling on a Pacific Rim that houses some thirteen of the twenty largest container
ports in the world from Hong Kong to Long Beach.18 That is to say, we can forget the
ocean in an urban life-world that depends for its material well-being on the ocean.
Living in cities on landed edges, we can unconsciously still trope the sea as alien
other, as a quasi-scriptural antagonist of mythic threat, as some negative or abjected
space of the void or oblivion that threatens earthly power.19 The sea still figures
as some murky blue-green abyss gestating monsters from inhuman depths linking
Job’s Leviathan and Melville’s Moby-Dick to Hollywood movies like Aliens of the
Deep (2005) if not the deformed byproduct of our chemical transpacific waste in

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264 Rob Wilson

the South Korean movie (linking Seoul’s Han River to the military pollutions of the
American Pacific), in Bong Joon-Ho’s The Host (2006). Guillermo del Toro’s oceanic
monster movie is called Pacific Rim (2013), and the ocean figures as a disruptive
site where transnational military forces in “various capitalist modes of production”
from the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and Australia have to band together, in
a techno-rich Hong Kong, to fend off the post-Godzilla kaiju from the alien deeps
of nuclear or ecological disaster.20

Stefan Helmreich, in his far-reaching study of microbial oceanography, Alien
Ocean, has elaborated what he calls a “dual imaginary” of romantic and scientific
ambivalence towards these planetary waters: the ocean is both trouble to us (as with
tsunamis or climate change) and in trouble from us (as in our Pacific garbage patch
or overfishing). The ocean remains an uncanny yet familiar presence of elemental
sublimity: a natural immensity at once threatening and a “source of its own curative
powers.”21 Helmreich’s main focus is upon deep-sea microbes as ecological protago-
nists that can eat up the potent greenhouse gas, methane, we overproduce.22 We
try to map this ocean with treaties and legal conventions rooted in straight lines,
contracts, and bounded spaces. But these market-based projections of Exclusive
Economic Zones (EEZs) regulated by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the
Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) fail to achieve lasting consensual dominion, as in the
current dispute over a chain of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea known
as the Diaoyu Islands in China and the Senkakus in Japan, or similar disputes over
the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.23 “China thinks of the South China Sea
much as the U.S. thinks of the Caribbean: as a blue-water extension of its mainland,”
as Robert D. Kaplan argues from geopolitical perspective, recalling the primacy of
nation-stratified geography to conflicts of land and sea even amid all the collapsing
of spatial distances via the internet.24

This is what I mean by here figuring the Ocean “as peril”: that is, an ocean
endangering us and endangered by us. This sea of marketized dominion and/or
alien obliviousness can flip over and become the site of human waste disposal,
excess, remainder, abduction, resonant with oil spills, plastics, and radioactive
contaminants. World ocean waters do remember, as it were; they remain filled
with the heaviness of our military history and technological blunders.25 From the
Bikini atoll horrors of US atomic testing which produced nuclear refugees from
island-home sites of indigenous displacement, to the radiation effects of Chernobyl
across Russia, to the latest techno-nuclear disaster in Fukushima Japan in 2011, the
military-industrial apparatus threatens not just the water and air of the region but
the whole Pacific Rim as a planetary bioregion. As the tsunami reminded Pacific
dwellers from Sendai in coastal Eastern Japan to Santa Cruz in Northern California,
the Pacific Rim is not just a discourse or trope of transnational market-fusion or
national defense, it is a geologically interactive bioregion fundamentally as well. As
one of hundreds picking up the debris from the Japanese tsunami in waters off the
Pacific Northwest coast a year later remarked, “I’m constantly struck by the idea

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Oceania as Peril and Promise 265

that this is a very small planet. Something that happens on the other side of the
ocean has become something you can see and touch in your backyard. It’s a pretty
powerful thing.”26

Alien Ocean would move beyond what has been called the “red ocean” of bio-
prospecting competitors battling for priority in techno-space into what Harvard
Business Review authors W. Chan Kin and Renee Mauborgne would target as the
“blue ocean strategy” of uncontested market space: some transnational dream of
deterritorialized markets full of liquid capital and biogenetic profit.27 Evoking the
salt waters around Hawai‘i as “a vision of the ocean as endlessly generative [that]
mimes and anchors a conception of biology as always overflowing with (re) produc-
tivity,” Helmreich calls this form of marine bioprospecting a mode of “blue-green
capitalism, where blue stands for speculative sky-high promise and green for a belief
in biological fecundity.”28 The blue of the Pacific begins to glow with the green of
money if not the red of the dispossessed or ruined. As in the techno-filmic sublimity
of James Cameron, ocean becomes a resource of untapped bio-capital, instantiat-
ing what Helmreich calls “the cyberspatialized Pacific Rim [mined] as an extension
of an unfettered American frontier economy and as a site where capital meets its
Western limits only to find openings into Eastern markets; capitalism become a sea
serpent, ringing the world, eating its regenerating tail.”29 This is “Pacific Rim dis-
course” gone wild, fused with oceanic biotech hyperbole and transnational futur-
ism: Helmreich heard the mayor of Honolulu speaking it and Asia-Pacific planners
buying into it at the Fourth Asia Pacific Marine Biotechnology Conference in 2002.

World oceans cannot long bear this red, blue, green, and “ultraviolet capital”
coloration, “where extremophiles that survive ionizing radiation become intriguing
candidates for [a] cosmic biotechnology” that knows no Club of Rome limits.30 The
floor of Monterey Bay in Northern California, Pacific site where Ed DeLong con-
ducts his marine biology research, has become a one-ton layer of human discards—
meaning artillery shells, fishing lines, bottles, and plastic remainders—despite
vigilant efforts of environmental forces and agencies. The apocalyptic image of
ocean endangerment remains that of a global installation in the “ocean commons”
created by overproductive waste and ecological unconsciousness we share on both
sides of the Pacific. This is what is now called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch: a
gyre of plasticene detritus twice the size of Texas and weighing some 100 million
tons that lies just below ocean surface between California, Hawai‘i, and Japan (the
Northern Pacific Gyre). This oceanic-slime image of the postmodern sublime is
being formed out of our throwaway bottles, chemical sludge, and polymers that are
harmful to marine wildlife.31

Such “ecopoetic” images of catastrophic oceanic sublimity could be multiplied:
the Tuvalu Islands disappearing due to global warming and rising tides, the military
buildup and damages ongoing from Guam to the Persian Gulf, the melting Pacific
arctic, the mounting typhoons of Taiwan, the nuclear waste waters of Japan. They
might help move urban-oceanic citizens of postmodernity into a vision of Oceania

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266 Rob Wilson

as a site of Asia-Pacific transnational solidarity. By “transpacific ecopoetics” in my
subtitle, this is what I would move towards as “the promise” of an Ocean (building
upon the trope of Oceania) connected to a vision of altered transnational belonging,
ecological confederation, and transracial solidarity.

In Be Always Converting, Be Always Converted: An American Poetics (2009),
I proposed a postcolonial figure of oceanic conversion that is widely taking place
around the crucial Tongan writer and social scientist Epeli Hau‘ofa, for whom
Christian conversion became refigured as a polytheistic form and transmuted into
an ecumenical frame via his ocean-affiliated metamorphosis of belief.32 The vision-
ary Hau‘ofa (1939–2009) turns away from the telos of capitalist hyper-development
that has gotten the modern ocean into the trouble it is in as “Great Pacific Garbage
Patch” ecoscape. For Hau‘ofa, Oceania in effect becomes a transracial and transna-
tional way of refiguring the Pauline universality of address for the island peoples
across the Pacific for whom, he laments and critiques, globalization discourse hails
these smaller nations into market dependency and subaltern labor, thus putting
their lands, waters, and recourses into planetary jeopardy. Playing off the pidgin
vernacular framing of Oceania as “wansolwara” (one salt water), this becomes
Hau’ofa’s postcolonial tactic of shedding regional visions of the Pacific such as “The
South Seas,” “Australasia,” “South Pacific” “Pacific Basin” or merely the “Pacific
Islands.”33 All these quasi-colonial frames of geography, archive, epistemology, and
place are now giving way to Oceania as the self-identified signifier of trans-Native
Pacific choice and ontological belonging to the ocean world.34 Hau’ofa’s capacious
vision is founded in the trope of a “one salt water” Pacific.35

Hau‘ofa’s ecumene for Pacific coalition-building is called “Oceania” and its
poetic vagary of definition becomes a resignifying form of unity through which
Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian and all such colonial-imposed definitions
of race or nationhood could be sloughed off like dead boundary lines, false confine-
ments into smallness, irrelevance, and global dependency. Oceania was originally a
French geographical term coined in 1831 by the French explorer Dumont d’Urville,
“l‘Océanie,” and is nowadays the name for one of eight planetary eco-zones on the
Earth. Hau‘ofa framed his rebirth along a postcolonial road leading from Damascus
to Kona and Volcano on the Big Island. He went on writing (until his death in
2009 in Fiji) about this hope-generating turn back to native gods, goddesses, and
art and away from globalization models of smallness, lack, or belatedness in the
Pacific. Ecumene is drawn from the Greco-Roman world where it meant “the inhab-
ited part of the earth.” World geographers now use it to stand for populated sites.
Ecumene/ecumenical are terms used by religious forces (since the ancient time of
Roman Catholic dispensation) to stand for promoting unity and cooperation across
divisions of faith.36 Epeli gives his “ecumene” a watery turn, reflecting an oceanic
way of belonging to the world: “Oceania” becomes a regional framework whose
center is everywhere in the interior Pacific and whose circumference on the edges
of the Pacific is not so fixed or certain, from its early use (which included Australia

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Oceania as Peril and Promise 267

and New Zealand) to later iterations (which at times excludes Asia in toto, as I will
problematize below).37

Ecumene, as we recall from Gary Snyder’s early poetic usage, is related to the
later term “ecology,” the “earth household” (as Snyder tropes its etymology) of using
water and land, economy and planet as a mode of planetary belonging. Snyder
writes in “Notes on Poetry as an Ecological Survival Tool” in 1969, “Ecology: ‘eco’
(oikos) meaning ‘house’ (cf. ‘ecumenical’): Housekeeping on Earth. Economics,
which is merely the housekeeping of various social orders—[not] taking out more
than it puts back—must learn the rules of the greater [planetary] realm.”38 Hau‘ofa’s
“Oceania” serves as a catholic (small c) universal, boundary-shattering ecumene of
Pacific Ocean belonging, implying a kind of shared housekeeping on Ocean. Stories,
images, art, dance, and legends give a deeper sense of Pacific co-belonging; long-
woven networks of interconnected reciprocity prove crucial to this formation across
the Western and Asian Pacific, as islands and oceans are connected, link, and would
counter the late-capitalist world from before, within, and after it.

Transformations in “Asia Pacific” Knowledge Formations

Reflecting modes of techno-interconnectivity and global mobility from above and
below, regions are becoming reframed via more fluid forms of relationship and
interconnection like “Oceania,” “Inter-Asia,” “Asia/Pacific,” “the new Europe” so
called, or the “circum-Mediterranean” than previous area studies had allowed. In
his essay “Asia Pacific Studies in an Age of Global Modernity” published in Inter-
Asia Cultural Studies (2005)—a journal in which this multisited region transforma-
tion of “Asia Pacific” has been taking place since its founding in 1999—Arif Dirlik
provides an overview of transformations of field imaginaries in Asia and the Pacific
since the late 1980s.39 Dirlik and I were coeditors of a special issue of boundary
2 called “Asia/Pacific as Space of Cultural Production” that appeared with Duke
University Press and posited linkages and discrepancies between these two areas,
at the same time it placed Asia and Pacific areas in rhizomatic, interlinked, trans-
disciplinary, and trans-spatial dialogue.40 As the introduction to Asia/Pacific as
Space of Cultural Production urged, “The all-but-reified ‘Asia-Pacific’ formulated by
market planners and military strategists is inadequate to describe or explain the
fluid and multiple ‘Asia/Pacific’ . . . The slash would signify linkage yet difference.”
“Asia-Pacific,” with the solicitous hyphen of APEC, weights the Pacific towards Asia
as a source of motions in labor, capital, and culture as we surveyed it. Asia slash
Pacific (Asia/Pacific) can also mean opening the region to alternative formations,
“as [this] Asia/Pacific region enacts the reconfigured space of nation-state deter-
ritorialization, reinvention, struggle, and flight as power leaks out of the Cold War

In “Asia Pacific Studies in an Age of Global Modernity,” Dirlik points to five
overlapping “trends” that have arisen, following upon the crisis of area studies

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268 Rob Wilson

and the dismantling of Cold War rationales, what Kuan-Hsing Chen calls “de-
Cold-Warization”42 across Asia and the Pacific: (1) civilizational studies; (2) the
Asianization of Asian studies; (3) indigenous studies; (4) oceanic studies; and (5)
diasporic studies. While Dirlik sees the first three as “continuous with [area studies
and nation-based formations] in terms of fundamental spatial assumptions” of
borders and fields mapped via nations in areas (161), he goes on to discuss oceanic
and diasporic studies as representing “novel spatialities” that have arisen to chal-
lenge and assert alternatives to Cold War area studies models that had solidified
during and after World War II.43

“Oceanic studies,” while related to Pacific Rim studies of transpacific capital-
ism in Asia-Pacific and other world-ocean sites, can serve discrepant global and
local interests. As Dirlik phrases this dialectic, “Oceans may represent projections
of place-based indigenous ideals into space, as they do for Epeli Hau‘ofa, or they
may be used to promote an APEC version of space in the service of capital and
[transnationalizing] states.”44 To invoke “Oceania” as opposed to the imperialized
Pacific Ocean/Pacific Region implies that there is a “salutary absence of a natural-
ized homogeneous ‘identity’” to this name Pacific, as Gayatri Spivak has observed
in her own turn to embrace a related mode of “critical regionalism” in Other Asias
implied to Asia.45 Spivak moves “to ‘pluralize’ Asia” in all its discrepant histories
and power differentials, so as “to build [or world] another Asia” than that form of
worlding resonant with imperial or hegemonic power.46 Oceania, like “other Asias,”
becomes another way of figuring the Ocean in the Pacific in a more transpacific
coalitional way that opens towards an ecopoetics of co-belonging that is not just
identity-based but oceanic and planetary as a poetics and politics.47

No Asia or Pacific region-making framework can remain innocent of uneven
power dynamics, historical elisions, bordered exclusions, discrepancies, or aporias
of place-making. Oceania as such—full of the Maori poet Robert Sullivan’s wakas48
and the Chamarro-American poet Craig Santos Perez’s sakman49 as well as those
350-meter long containerized diesel ships from Matson and Evergreen to STX, with
such ships losing some 10,100 containers each year at sea—offers no postcolonial
kava-pill of forgetting for the lasting effects of war, militarization, racial tension, or
the dynamics of neoliberal globalization reshaping space, time, self, or world.50 Such
historical antagonisms remain and disturb any vision of this Asia/Pacific ocean as
“worlding” commons.51

Asia Sublates the Pacific

Unmaking colonial modes with raucous satire, Hau‘ofa’s fictional writing is done in
the post-British “many Englishes” of Polynesia, “alter Englishes,” which are creolized
and pidginized. Still, Hau‘ofa’s works often demonize, mock, or exclude contempo-
rary Asians as such from having an affirmative claim upon, or role in, the con-
struction of this alternative Oceania of ecological belonging. In Tales of the Tikongs,

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Oceania as Peril and Promise 269

Japanese corporate forces are linked to the Pacific Rim operators from Australia
and New Zealand. “The Pacific Way belongs to regional Elites .  .  .”, building cars
too small for hefty Tikong people and a tuna cannery that ends in disarray in “The
Tower of Babel.”52 Gaming parlors of Taipei and sex shops of Tokyo and Sydney
conspire to turn Tiko into “the South Pacific Haven for Gambling and Prostitution.”
Pacific developers like Ole turn to “regional [money] laundry centers” in Bangkok,
Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Suva, and Moumea” to learn how to do this higher mode of
Asia-Pacific exploitation. Kisses in the Nederends centers around New Age modes of
duping, tranquillizing, and conning the indigenous Pacific body of Oilei Bomboki
via that sage, yogi, and conman of Asian capitalist yoga and libidinal love, Babu

In “The Ocean in Us,” an essay in We Are the Ocean based on the Oceania
lecture delivered to the University of the South Pacific in Suva in 1997 as ecological
keynote address, Hau‘ofa pushes towards forms of ecological solidarity. “And for a
new Oceania to take hold,” he urges, “it must have a solid dimension of commonal-
ity that we can perceive with our senses. Culture and nature are inseparable. The
Oceania that I see is a creation of people in all walks of life.” Earlier, debating who
belongs to this new Oceania, Hau‘ofa urges in the same essay, “Oceania refers to a
world of people connected to each other. . . . As far as I am concerned, anyone who
has lived in our region and is committed to Oceania is an Oceanian.” Belonging to
Oceania becomes a matter of political and cultural commitment: Oceania means
not only having a sense of history and cultivating a set of attitudes and beliefs,
it means cultivating a sense of belonging to the earth and ocean as a bioregional
horizon of care. But, later in the same essay, Hau‘ofa goes on to claim that in this
Oceania “Asian mainland influences were largely absent until the modern era,” and
that more specifically speaking, “Pacific Ocean islands, from Japan through the
Philippines and Indonesia, which are adjacent to the Asian mainland, do not have
oceanic cultures and are therefore not part of Oceania” (53). In other words, Asians
at times can be excluded by history, tradition, and territorial site from belonging to
this new Oceania. Questions haunt the Pacific and Asia: can Asia become part of
Oceania, can Oceania become the basis of a broader environmental collation, or can
Oceania alter hegemonic “Pacific Rim” or “Asia Pacific” frameworks?54

This view of Asia sublating the interior Pacific, positioned outside of Oceania as
a shared etho-political ecoscape, is not uncommon in a range of works and genres.
Teresia Teaiwa, in her poem “Amnesia” from Tereneisa (2000) coperformed with Sia
Figiel, captures such a Pacific-evacuating Asia-Pacific, when she writes: “They’re
after American Pie in the East and some kind of Zen in the West . . . So it’s easy to
forget that there’s life and love and learning / between Asia and America.”55 In The
Shark that Ate the Sun, John Pule sees an Asian base-linked Pacific turn into an
“American Lake” for the American navy linking “ships in Samoa / Hawaii, Taiwan,
Philippines, / Belau, Kwajelein, Truk / The Marianas, the Carolines,” a security chain
in which “the dead [as at the Bikini Atoll] are louder in protest than the living.”56

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270 Rob Wilson

In “Shrinking the Pacific,” the Japanese American poet Lawson Inada imagines a
shrunken, water-displaced Pacific Rim across which global travelers can “take the
gleaming bridge / and bop into and around Hokkaido for lunch. // Maybe stay the
night, or come back to Oregon,  /  which, by now is full of Hokkaido tourists” or
neighbors, hard to tell anymore in this unified Asia-Pacific.57 Joe Balaz, in a poem
published in the web journal Otoliths, depicts a Waikiki become a shopping-mall
carnival of fake cultures and clownish versions of indigeneity, commodified like a
“Polynesian Hong Kong”:

it’s a hootenanny
and a hoedown
if you’re on da top
and you pull da strings
on all da puppet clowns.58

This is a global capitalist framework of simulation spun around “Asia-Pacific” that
depends upon a kind of “Disneyfication” of identity writ large, as Fredric Jameson
allegorizes this postmodern ‘“ethnicity-effect” for global tourist consumption.59

To be sure, much more resistance to such forms and mores is taking place in the
Asian and Pacific “worlding” dynamics of cultural production and site-based work.
In postcolonial Taiwan, a whole school of cultural studies work is arising which
links Taiwan native studies to Native American transnational frameworks of outer-
national and “trans-indigenous” belonging on the one hand; and on the other to a
contemporary connection with oceanic frameworks that would unsettle territorial
ties to the Chinese mainland and reframe this decentered island site as long con-
nected to the Pacific Ocean. In an essay on these oceanic ties in Taiwan through the
work of Tau poet from Orchid Island (long part of Austronesian culture and site of
antinuclear protests in the 1980s), Syaman Rapongan, in works like Cold Sea, Deep
Passion (1997) and Black Wings (1999), Hsinya Huang urges,

Through their own lived experience, as well as that of their island kin, Epeli Hau‘ofa
and Syaman Rapongan conceive of Oceania as a communal (sea) body, through
which they can ultimately resist the imaginary political lines drawn by colonial
powers. Their narratives turn hyper-modernized Pacific islanders (like themselves)
back towards a perception of bodily identities as individual projects in intimate
connection with Oceania.60

Hsinya Huang links Rapongan with the vision of Hau‘ofa, who (as in essays like
“The Ocean in Us”) “represents Oceanic peoples as custodians of the sea, who ‘reach
out to similar people elsewhere in the common task of protecting the seas for the
general welfare of all living things.’”61 Rapongan’s work in Black Wings on Oceania
in the North Eastern Pacific envisions an archipelagic region reshaping Taiwan as
space linked to Austronesian (if not Polynesian) modes of language, space, body,
and culture:

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Oceania as Peril and Promise 271

What does the “world atlas” mean? A chain of islands in Oceania. The islanders
share common ideals, savoring a freedom on the sea. On their own sea and the sea
of other neighboring islands, they are in quest of the unspoken and unspeakable
passion toward the ocean or maybe in quest of the words passed down from their

Albert Saijo’s post-Beat, pidgin “vandalized,” Zen-and-Emerson-haunted eco-
logical rhapsody, OUTSPEAKS, published by Bamboo Ridge Press (1997), forges
what he calls an alternative “cosmovision” of place, ocean, and planet from his resi-
dency ‘living on the edge’ of the Pacific near Hapu‘u Forest in Volcano on the Big
Island.63 The kolea or golden plover becomes his figure of an oceanic traveler, living
on scraps and edges, who forges at once a line of flight and a mode of frugal inhabit-
ing in “A Kona.”64 Identifying not as an ethnic Asian settler but as a “REBORN
HUMAN” of world ecology, Saijo urges his credo of the small and caring life of
hiking and sustenance living as beautiful.65 As he summarizes his poetics and life
dwelling close to the wilderness and his poetic and Buddhist quest (in the mode of
Gary Snyder and Lew Welch) for embodied beatitude in self and world: “EDGING

Two book-length contemporary poems by Craig Santos Perez enact an inno-
vative and historically informed feat of repossessing Oceania and the Marianas,
as a mode of world-belonging in which Guam/Guahan can never be named (or
forgotten as) another unincorporated territory of the post-1898 American Pacific.
Resisting Guam’s being the “Pacific hub to Asia” and being referred to in the region
as “USS Guam,” to use a powerful example of Asia and Pacific remapping, Perez
resists the centuries-long Spanish and US reduccion process of “subduing, convert-
ing, and gathering natives through the establishment of missions and the station-
ing of soldiers to protect those missions.”67 Guam as a militarized island with (as
Robert Duncan saw it) “planes [forever] roaring out from Guam over Asia,” would
turn the Americanized Pacific into “a sea of toiling men,” “a bloated thing” of war,
dispossession, and exploitation.68 But these poems (tied in transpacific tidelands
to the experimental writings of Tinfish in Honolulu and the Bay Area open poetics
of Robert Duncan, Rob Halpern, Barbara Jane Reyes et al.) proliferate counter-
namings and trace precarious routes and roots on Guahan, resulting in a whole
counter-geography of archipelagic belonging to Oceania and the Marianas as more
than an act “to prove the ocean  /  was once a flag” (hacha 47). Dispossessed by
Spanish of natives seafaring tools and boats of “tasi” (the ocean or sea) like the flying
proas or the sakman (long-voyaging canoe) and thus prevented from interisland
travel, “the chamorros themselves were by this time [1780s] no longer a people of
the sea” (quoting Destiny’s Landfall by Robert Rogers, hacha 74), and Guam was
called “omiya jima” (great shrine island) by the Japanese in World War II.

Dispossession leads to the poet using Chamorro as a “drowned  /  anguage”
returning in fragments and broken phrases and renaming of plants and things

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272 Rob Wilson

and history. At the same time, eight thousand marines will be transferred to Guam
from Okinawa by 2014 through a joint effort of the US and Japan (hacha 91). And,
ecological miscreant, the brown tree snake which first reached war-torn Guam as
World War II cargo ship stowaway has increased exponentially and led to declining
bird populations and other losses of native animals, as illegal dumpsites proliferate.
Like his fellow Pacific-based poets Robert Sullivan and Brandy Nālani McDougall,
Perez enacts an oceanic poetics: the poems, like its rooted and routed people, must
begin again in salt water and sub-surface groundings and waterings, tracing ‘one
salt water’ across different parts of the Pacific. “What the map cuts up,” as Michel
de Certeau puts this quest, “the story cuts across,” as the poet works in a diaspora
of open-field or circum-oceanic poetics (he has lived in Northern California since
his family moved there in 1995) to tell the broken story, in shards, remainders,
space-time constellations of place, family, and hand-me-down story.69 It’s Oceania
as reconvened to put the water-land nexus back into pre- and postcolonial focus, via
a resurrected spatiality of four languages.

As Perez writes, acknowledging borrowings from Charles Olson as well as
from Hau‘ofa in his oceanic “field composition” poems, “Hau‘ofa draws our atten-
tion to an oceania, préoceania, and transoceania surrounding islands, below the
waves, and in the sky—a deeper geography and mythology”70 (hacha, 63). The poet
does not just proclaim this New Oceania, he re-creates this region in performative
worldings in his poems. He also quotes from Robert Sullivan’s poem, “Ocean Birth,”
“every song to remind us— / we are skin of the ocean,” and from Muriel Rukeyser’s
“The Outer Banks,” “All is open. / Open water. Open I” making fixities break down
and fuse, link across imposed divides of subjected verb, “open” into world-making
and I-breaking action.

The Asia of these poems by Perez is also seen as an exploitative one, wherein
well-off South Koreans arrive to give birth to children who become guaranteed US
citizens as promoted by “birth tour agencies.”71 Postwar tourists begin to pour in
from the Rim, particularly Japan, with its ties of war and colonial settlement: “1967:
109 passengers on pan am flight 801 from haneda, japan arrive; ‘japanese rediscover
guam’” as “ginen sourcings” grimly puts the timeline, by 1973 a quarter of a million
tourists come to Guam, 70 percent Japanese. The numbered sections of the poem
all have Japanese numbers embedded in them, along with English and Chamorro
and Spanish, ichi to go. The rebranding of Guam as “world class tourist destination”
and hotels “all with ocean views” continues, as a function of what Teresia Teaiwa
calls the “militourist” mode of space-production in the Pacific for Asian and Euro-
American fulfillment. Even as the grandmother’s rosary ties the Pacific together
in grassroots beatitude and oceanic crossings, “when I say rosary [in Chamorro] I
think I can hear her voice / even here in California.”72

Across six postwar decades and transpacific contexts, Gary Snyder has forged
a coherent eco-poetics from Earth House Hold (1969) to the present, as gathered in
A Place in Space: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Watersheds (1995). Snyder has long posited

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Oceania as Peril and Promise 273

the regenerative power of wilderness, what he calls “the practice of the wild,” as well
as deep ties of the Pacific Rim to the powers of emplaced consciousness and “rein-
habitory” energies in the wilderness as connected to cities like San Francisco and
Seattle. In Snyder’s reframing of the coastal Pacific in “Coming into the Watershed,”
an essay that has become crucial to the field of American ecological criticism, “The
San Francisco  /  valley rivers  /  Shasta headwaters bio-city region” are all intercon-
nected and lead to an ethical attitude of gratitude and planetary care for “Turtle

Snyder renames this bio-community from his base in the Kitkitdizze Sierras
bioregion, a “Shasta Nation.”74 Here regenerative energies of the wild and the
sense of planetary belonging can lead Euro-Americans, Asian Americans, African
Americans and North Beach dharma bums on a shared, re-worlding path to
“become ‘born-again’ natives of Turtle Island.”75 His vision assumes an ecologi-
cally interconnected and re-nativized counter-conversion to place. In his essay on
urban place, “North Beach” from The Old Ways: Six Essays (1977), the poet enacts
a bio-poetics of the Bay Area region as “contado” and as counter-culture. San
Francisco North Beach is portrayed as a “non-Anglo” multicultural habitat, where
the Costanoan native people had lived for over five thousand years around the Bay,
which later became a place of Alta Californian dairy farms, before waves of Irish,
Italian, Sicilian, Portuguese, Chinese (Kwang-tung and Hakka) and “even Basque
sheepherders down from Nevada” settled in.76 Beneath the Transamerica Pyramid,
Snyder conjures “a tiny watershed divide at the corner of Green and Columbus”
where “northward a creek flowed” towards the Fisherman’s Wharf, all covered
by oblivious landfill now.77 By evoking remnants of the Pacific bioregion and its
occluded presence due to settlement in the Pacific Rim city, Snyder aims at “hatch-
ing something else in America; pray it cracks the shell in time” (“North Beach,” 6).
That “something else” is a Pacific bioregion that sees place connected to watersheds,
oceans, and place-tied values that comprise an ecopoetics drawing from cultures of
Native America, Asia, and the Pacific.

In Earth House Hold (1969), Gary Snyder ends his poetic-didactic journey out
of Cold War US formations and into alter-worlding constructions of place, self,
beatitude, and being in Asia and the Pacific (linking sites in Japan, India, Tonga,
“Cold Mountain” China, and the Pacific Northwest) by forming the Banyan Ashram
on Suwa-No-Se Island in the Amami groups of islands that continue from Okinawa
and the Ryukyus to Taiwan.78 This ashram, led by the amazing poet and dharma
Buddhist wanderer Nanao Sakaki of works like Break the Mirror (1987), cultivates
ties to place and ocean through small-scale farming and fishing, “offering shochu to
the gods of the volcano, the ocean, and the sky,” and in oceanic bonding for nourish-
ment, “For some fish you must become one with the sea and consider yourself a fish
among fish.”79

Meditating, farming, fishing, dancing, chanting, getting married to person and
place, Snyder and his wife Masa and their mentor Sakaki push their transpacific

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274 Rob Wilson

journey towards an ontology of wider world-belonging, situating Japan in an
Oceanic framework: “It is possible at last for Masa and me to imagine a little of
what the ancient—archaic—mind and life of Japan were. And to see what could be
restored to the life today” (Earth House Hold, 143). Snyder will work to bring this
ecological and etho-political stance I have been calling “ecopoetics” back across the
Pacific in works of global  /  local affects like Turtle Island (1974), Regarding Wave
(1970), Mountains and Rivers Without End (1996) and ecological-poetics, A Place
in Space (1995). As Iain Sinclair has remarked of Snyder’s long-cultivated vision of
ecology, poetics, and place as “the Pacific Rim dream of a natural paradise,” “[t]he
marks are on him of a long and complex relationship with both sides of the Pacific
Rim, a balance achieved.”80

We cannot and need not forget war, racism, colonialism, and neocolonial eco-
nomic discrepancies in the magical waters of this new Pacific-becoming-Oceania
or some recuperated animistic Eden on the Pacific Rim. Still, affiliation to Oceania
in such writers and cultural producers can become not just a matter of heritage
or blood, but be based around “a trope of commitment, vision, and will,” in the
remaking of Asia and the Pacific.81 This, in any event, is the promise offered by a
responsible sense of shared ecopoetics and bioregion. Thinking with and beyond
Epeli Hau‘ofa’s vision, Oceania can become (a) a framework to help forge a vision
of ecological solidarity; (b) the site of alternative modes of belonging inside Asia
and the Pacific, reflecting Pacific and Asia linkage and knowledge formation; and
(c) the oceanic imagination can prove helpful as a mode of transforming social and
regional practices and help the making, shaping, and gathering of what I have been
calling “a Transpacific Ecopoetics.” Literature (in writers like Spahr, Saijo, Santos
Perez, Snyder et al.) can help us to see such links and affects between ocean, self, and
planet. Cultural poetics can help us to overcome what Lawrence Buell has called
“the foreshortened or inertial aspect of [the] environmental unconscious,” so that
we can develop better modes of re-inhabitation and a “watershed consciousness” of
an Oceania aware of our ties to rivers, tidal shores, and the global commons of the

Towards an Ecopoetics of Asia-Pacific Solidarity in Oceania

In his essay “Indigenous Articulations,” James Clifford reaches into the “articula-
tion” theories of Stuart Hall and Antonio Gramsci to offer a multiple-edged model
of Pacific region-making he calls “subaltern region-making.” Pacific indigenous
peoples can compose,” in this process, “a region cobbled together, articulated [with
global forces], from the inside out, based on everyday practices that link islands with
each other and with mainland diasporas.”83 As in his first book on the “Melanesian
world,” Clifford turns back to the work of Jean-Marie Tjibaou in New Caledonia
and the Loyalty Islands “where a composite ‘Kanak’ identity was emerging in politi-
cal struggle.” Such a vision of place, land, and identity as “inter-dependent” would

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Oceania as Peril and Promise 275

“also embrace the Pacific sea of islands—a wider world of cultural exchange and
alliances that were always crucial for Tjibaou’s thinking about independence as
inter-dependence,” as Clifford summarizes Tjibaou’s gesture towards the island land
and sea (“Mais, c’est ça la maison”) as world home in Oceania.84

We can thicken the meanings and tactics of “Oceania” via a Pacific Island-based
anthology called Whetu Moana: Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English (edited
by Albert Wendt et al.) in which ten Hawaiian poets figure prominently: many
of the poems are concerned not just with links to the people of “the ‘aina” (land)
but to sustenance from, connections to, and wayfaring across “Oceania” (includ-
ing ecologically oriented poems based in Hawaiian waters like “Spear Fisher” and
“Da Last Squid” by Joe Balaz).85 Crucially in 1976, and in waves of Pacific-crossing
voyages since then, the Hawaiian voyaging project Hokule‘a began to reconnect the
Polynesian triangle across Oceania and helped to create this interconnected ocean
of star via native knowledge, techniques, and community building forms cutting
across nations and colonizing prejudices. Such remappings of place and region,
around Oceania, occur in Robert Sullivan’s Star Waka (1999) and the counter-
geographies and indigenous ocean-making tactics of Craig Santos Perez in from
Unincorporated Territory [Hacha/saina] (2008/2010) and [lukao] (2017), all three
serial poetic works in his decolonizing of Guam series.

Invoking James Clifford’s evocation of New Caledonia as connecting place to
ocean world, Gary Snyder’s oceanic ashram in Japan with Nanao Sakaki in Earth
House Hold and Jan Ken Po: Live in Honolulu, Albert Saijo’s ocean-facing Big Island
in OUTSPEAKS, Robert Sullivan’s eclectic waka-assemblages, and Taiwan’s re-
nativizing turn into a counter-mainland site as aligned to Oceania in Hsinya Huang
et al, I have been aiming to overcome the taken-for-granted view of an Asia/Pacific
imaginary with Asian cultures and sites cast as transnational capital forces of glo-
balization set relentlessly against the interior Pacific figured as raw resource, fantasy
site, vacancy, and/or subaltern or diasporic labor. Aiming towards a multiple-edged
vision of ecological solidarity in the region, “We [culture workers, critical theorists,
teachers] can seek the antagonistic synergy of Asia/Pacific forces, flows, linkages,
and networks.”86 With wry wit and capacious-hearted humor Epeli Hau‘ofa often
implied as much in his own first-person-plural evocations, as when he left that
catholic “we” of oceanic solidarity open, under-specified in the summary title to
his selected works, We Are the Ocean, thus capable of expansive coalition-building
inside and across the Pacific and the world: we are the ocean indeed, in some eco-
logical sense of body/place/world.

As Sylvia Earle wrote in Time magazine (in a 1996 article Hau‘ofa fondly cited
to broaden the “we” claim of We Are the Ocean), “Every breath we take is possible
because of the life-filled life-giving sea; oxygen is generated there, carbon dioxide
absorbed . . . Most of Earth’s living space [its ecumene], the biosphere, is ocean—
about 97%. And not so coincidentally 97% of Earth’s water is Ocean.”87 We know
from effects like El Niño and polar melting, the sea shapes weather and climate

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276 Rob Wilson

patterns; and its moistures stabilize and replenish the fresh waters of rivers, lakes,
and streams. We are the Ocean in our very bodies as well, each living person com-
posed of some 60 percent to 70 percent water.

One last image from the interior Pacific—a haunting and primordial one of
cultural endangerment and environmental peril yet of promise as well concerning
the restorative power of ecopoetics: in a section called “Flows” in that Asia/Pacific
as Space of Cultural Production collection from 1995, we included a translation
by Theophil Saret Reuney of an ocean-based work from Truk (in the Federated
States of Micronesia) called “The Pulling of Olap’s Canoe.”88 The work itself, and its
footnotes with coinages and gaps of untranslatability, comprises an oral cartogra-
phy as an islands-ocean nexus full of place names, names for birds, whales, plants,
waves, rocks, navigation customs, islands, specific species of Oceania, as in lines
like “The whale whose names are Urasa and Pwourasa / They guard those pompano
fish which belong to wasofo [a name for the new canoe, and by extension the new

This Pacific poet-scholar has passed away. Theophil Reuney’s works are still
used by linguists and biologists (like Alan E. Davis) to compile Chuukese names
for plants and animals, and by Joachim Peter to forge an oceanic-based vision of
horizon, world, and place: let us hope that these names and these creatures can
survive our own planetary plundering.89 The world of Olap’s ocean is endangered,
as is Oceania more broadly by such a loss of culture and place, as when Theophil’s
footnote 48 to the line “You delve deeply into the fish of mataw anu,” suggests that
for the name mataw anu, the “meaning is ambiguous, especially since the type of
fish is unknown.”90


1. See, for example, “U.S., China Clash on Key Issues,” New York Times, September 5, 2012,
and “Too Small an Ocean,” The Economist, September 8, 2012. See also New York Times
editorial, “Asia’s Roiling Sea,” August 18, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/19/

2. Masao Miyoshi, Trespasses: Selected Writings (Durham, NC: Duke University Press,
2010). 260–61.

3. See also Rob Wilson, “Worlding Asia/Oceania: Concepts, Tactics, Warning Signs inside
the Anthropocene,” essay forthcoming in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies.

4. Quoted in Stefan Helmreich, Alien Ocean: Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas
(Berkeley: University of California Press. 2009), 3, 9.

5. Steve Mentz, At the Bottom of Shakespeare’s Ocean (London: Continuum, 2009), xii, 88.
6. Juliana Spahr, This Connection of Everyone with Lungs (Berkeley: University of California

Press, 2005), title to poetry collection.
7. Juliana Spahr, Well Then There Now (Boston: Black Sparrow, 2011), 9–50.
8. Spahr, Well Then There Now, 11–15.
9. Spahr, Well Then There Now, 84, emphasis in the original.

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Oceania as Peril and Promise 277

10. Spahr, Well Then There Now, 67.
11. Carl Schmitt, Land and Sea, trans. Simona Draghici (Washington DC: Plutarch Press,

1997), 1.
12. We can speculate that the United States’ oceanic disposal of Osama bin Laden’s remains

in the Arabian Sea after his capture and killing in May, 2011, was a way of deterritorial-
izing, othering, and de-nationalizing his very body, subjecting it to elemental oblivion
and unhomely erasure by water.

13. See Paul Carter, Dark Writing: Geography, Performance, Design (Honolulu: University of
Hawai‘i Press, 2008).

14. On the long duration and geopolitical imaginary of these Euro-American configured
oceans, see Christopher Leigh Connery, “Ideologies of Land and Sea: Alfred Thayer
Mahan, Carl Schmitt, and the Shaping of Global Myth Elements,” boundary 2 28 (2001):
173–201; and Christopher Leigh Connery, “There Was No More Sea: The Supersession
of the Ocean, from The Bible to Cyberspace,” Journal of Historical Geography 32 (2006):

15. See Christopher Leigh Connery and Rob Wilson, eds., The Worlding Project: Doing
Cultural Studies in the Era of Globalization (Santa Cruz, CA: New Pacific Press, 2007);
Epeli Hau‘ofa, We Are the Ocean: Selected Works (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press,
2008); and Gary Y. Okihiro, Island World: A History of Hawai‘i and the United States
(Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2008).

16. See Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity (New York: Polity, 2000), 13.
17. On this body of oceanic work, see Sukhdev Sandhu, “Allan Sekula: Filming the Forgotten

Resistance at Sea,” The Guardian, April 20, 2012, accessed online: http://www.guardian.

18. Bruce Cumings, Dominion from Sea to Sea: Pacific Ascendancy and American Power
(New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010), 386.

19. See Christopher Leigh Connery, “Sea Power,” PMLA 125 (May, 2010): 685–92.
20. Joshua Clover, “‘Atlantic Rim’: Chomsky Vs. Zizek,” The Nation, September 2–9, 2013,

accessed September 23, 2012, http://www.thenation.com/article/175740/atlantic-rim-

21. Alien Ocean, 114–15.
22. Alien Ocean, 31.
23. “Once defined by the range of a cannon shot from the shore, sovereignty over coastal

waters has since 1982 been guided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the
Sea (UNCLOS). Signatories can claim a ‘territorial sea’ up to 12 nautical miles (22km)
from their shoreline, inside which they can set laws but not meddle with international
shipping .  .  . Beyond the territorial sea there is a 200-mile ‘exclusive economic zone’
(EEZ), where coastal countries have the sole rights to resources. When two EEZs collide,
UNCLOS calls for an equidistant line between the coasts, splitting the shared gulf or strait
down the middle. The theory sounds simple, but the practice is complicated: islands,
rocks, historic sovereignty and natural resources can bend the line.” For an analysis of
these current and ongoing conflicts in the Northern Pacific, see The Economist, August
25, 2012, “Make Law Not War: How to Solve Spats over Sea Borders.”

24. See Robert D. Kaplan, “Geography Strikes Back,” The Wall Street Journal online,
September 7, 2012, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443819404577635

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278 Rob Wilson

25. See Elizabeth DeLoughrey, “Heavy Waters: Waste and Atlantic Modernity,” PMLA 125
(May, 2010): 703–12.

26. See Lindsay Hoshaw, “Remnants of Japan’s Tsunami Attract an Archaeological
Interest,” New York Times online, September 3, 2012, http://www.nytimes.

27. Helmreich, Alien Ocean, 115.
28. Helmreich, Alien Ocean, 107.
29. Helmreich, Alien Ocean, 109.
30. Helmreich, Alien Ocean, 368.
31. This region-based analysis draws on information from the following sources accessed

online: Jane Palmer, “Junk Accumulating on Monterey Bay Ocean Floors: Scientists Find
Increasing Levels of Debris in the Deep Sea,” Santa Cruz Sentinel (February 2, 2010); and
Maggie Shiels, “Boat Made of Trash [the Plastiki] Prepares to Set Sail,” BBC News (March
3, 2010).

32. Rob Wilson, Be Always Converting, Be Always Converted: An American Poetics
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009), Chapter 4, “Writing Down the
Lava Road from Damascus to Kona: Counter-Conversion, Pacific Polytheism, and
Re-Nativization in Epeli Hau’ofa’s Oceania,” 119–42.

33. See Sean Brawley and Chris Dixon, The South Seas: A Reception History from Daniel
Defoe to Dorothy Lamour (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2015).

34. See Rob Wilson, Be Always Converting, Be Always Converted, 126. For a Native Hawaiian
vision of ocean-based knowledge and ecological belonging to Oceania, see Karin
Amimoto Ingersoll, Waves of Knowing: A Seascape Epistemology (Durham, NC: Duke
University Press, 2016).

35. Meditating on the semiotics and politics of “Oceania,” Hau‘ofa admits having the Papua
New Guinea pidgin-based term “Wansolwara” in mind, as the name for a newspaper
produced by Pacific Islander journalism students at the University of South Pacific in
Fiji, when he founded the Oceania Centre for Arts and Culture in 1997 where the “Red
Wave Collective” emerges. See “The Ocean in Us” in We Are the Ocean, 114–17.

36. Oceania remains one of the ecumenical categories of the Roman Catholic Church
globe today; an earlier example of this usage would be the study written by the Vicar
Apostolic of Western Oceania and founder of the Catholic Church in Aotearoa in 1838,
Jean Baptiste Francois Pompallier’s Early History of the Catholic Church in Oceania
(Auckland, NZ: H. Brett, 1888). There is a stained glass window of Bishop Pompallier in
the church at Lapaha, Tonga, Epeli’s familial homeland, where he is called “1st Bishop of
Central Oceania”: in other words, Hau‘ofa would have known such French and Roman
Catholic usages (Pompallier wrote his own study in English).

37. From Saint Augustine to Ralph Waldo Emerson (see his Oversoul-centered essay
“Circles”) and Marshall McLuhan (as in his talk to Father Peyton), God was commonly
defined as “a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.”
Oceania, as materialized and envisioned in Hau‘ofa, functions as a “God-term” (as
Kenneth Burke would call the terminological aims of such rhetoric) of inclusive

38. Gary Snyder, Earth House Hold: Technical Notes & Queries to Fellow Dharma
Revolutionaries (New York: New Directions, 1969), 127.

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Oceania as Peril and Promise 279

39. Arif Dirlik, “Asia Pacific Studies in an Age of Global Modernity,” Inter-Asia Cultural
Studies 6 (2005): 158–70.

40. See Rob Wilson and Arif Dirlik, eds., Asia/Pacific as Space of Cultural Production
(Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995). On related modes of regional transforma-
tion and cultural studies across the Pacific region, see Laura Lyons, “American Pacific
Culture and Theory,” The Years’ Work in Critical and Cultural Theory 6 (1996): 315–24;
and Houston Wood, “Cultural Studies for Oceania,” The Contemporary Pacific 15 (2003):

41. Asia/Pacific as Space of Cultural Production, 6, 13.
42. In “Taiwan as Club 51: The Culture of US Imperialism,” The Worlding Project, ed.

Connery and Wilson, 111.
43. What Dirlik calls “the Asianization of Asian studies” as “directed against the hegemony

of Eurocentric knowledge [of the area], especially United States domination of scholar-
ship” and the turn to “insiders’ views of Asian problems” and theories (164) might well
be elaborated (in the interior Pacific context) as the “Pacific indigenization of Pacific
studies,” which would complicate and overlap with what he separates as “trend” three,
“indigenous studies” wherein he draws upon the work of Vilsoni Hereniko et al. (162–
63). This stance would often be directed against Australian and British claims to priority
in the Pacific.

44. Dirlik, “Asia Pacific Studies in an Age of Global Modernity,” 167.
45. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Other Asias (London: Blackwell, 2008), 9, 1.
46. Spivak, Other Asias, 8.
47. On this ‘Pacific becoming Oceania” as an emergent mode of poetics and politics, see Rob

Wilson “Postcolonial Pacific Poetries: Becoming Oceania,” in The Cambridge Companion
to Postcolonial Poetry, ed. Jahan Ramazani (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University
Press, 2017), 58–71.

48. See the Maori-ocean reclaiming long poem by Robert Sullivan, Star Waka (Auckland,
NZ: Auckland University Press, 1999).

49. With his fourth collection in the from unincorporated territory serial poem series,
[lukao] (Oakland, CA: Omnidawn, 2017), Craig Santoz Perez continues to draw a
counter-imperial cartography of the Marinas Islands and to decolonize and demilitarize
the shape and contours of the Pacific as collective space.

50. See Jean Luc Nancy, The Creation of the World, or Globalization, trans. Francois Raffoul
and David Pettigrew (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2007). If glo-
balization discourse presumes that the “world space” is at the mercy of market norms
promulgated by neoliberal policies reshaping the world from Beijing to Paris, this can
lead to what Nancy calls the earth-shattering values of the immonde (117) or “glomus”
(37) delivered to the planet by the world-becoming-market.

51. “Worlding” as a critical practice my poetics is affiliated to via this region-making of
“Oceania” enacts an opening of space, time, and consciousness to other values and
modes of being. Spatially, a worlded criticism seeks to disclose altered connections
and articulations that cut across place, area, city, and given regional forms: “Worlding
implies a fully culture-drenched and being-haunted process of ‘de-distancing’ the ever-
globalizing world of techno-domination and its badly managed nuclearized standing-
reserve. ‘Worlding,’ as an active-force gerund, would turn nouns (world) to verbs
(worlding), thus shifting the taken-for-granted life-forms of the market and war into the

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280 Rob Wilson

to-be-generated and remade. As such a gerundive process of situated-articulation and
world-making, ‘worlding’ thus would help deepen and show how modes and texts of
contemporary being and uncanny worldly dwelling (as in reading the language of first-
world novels against the imperial grain, for that matter) can become a historical process
of taking care, and setting limits, entering into, and making the world-horizon come
near and become local and informed, situated, instantiated as an uneven/incomplete
material process of world-becoming.” See Rob Wilson, “Worlding as Future Tactic, in The
Worlding Project: Doing Cultural Studies in the Era of Globalization, 211–12.

52. Epeli Hau‘ofa, Tales of the Tikongs (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1994).
53. Epeli Hau‘ofa, Kisses in the Nederends (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1995).
54. Vilsoni Hereniko, ally in Pacific literary and cultural studies, former director of the

Center for Pacific Island Studies at the University of Hawai‘i and Hau‘ofa’s successor as
director of the Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies at the University of
the South Pacific in Suva, offered interesting feedback to me on the whole issue as to
how, and to that extent Hau‘ofa “excluded” Asians from Oceania or the material national
history of the Pacific. After my keynote talk at the 21st School of Pacific and Asian
Studies Graduate Student Conference at the University of Hawai‘i in 2010, Vili pointed
out to me and the audience, through historical anecdote and critical reflection, that Epeli
(as Vili said) did “more than anyone” to support the Indians in Fiji, those scapegoated
Indo-Fijian settlers at a time when other Pacific writers were more on the side of keeping
Fiji for Fijians and supporting the nativist based hegemony and regime changes there.

55. This is from the CD performance Teresia Teaiwa [with Sia Figiel], Tereneisa (Honolulu:
Eleipaio Press, 2000).

56. John Pule, The Shark that Ate the Sun (Auckland, NZ: Penguin, 1992), 75.
57. Lawson Fusao Inada, “Shrinking the Pacific,” boundary 2 21.1 (1994): 57–58.
58. Joe Balaz, “Polynesian Hong Kong,” in Otoliths: A Magazine of Many E-Things 16 (2010),

59. See Fredric Jameson, “New Literary History after the End of the New,” New Literary

History 39 (2008). Jameson presumes global-capitalist formulations of ethnic simulation:
“In globalization, there are no cultures, but only nostalgic images of national cultures:
in postmodernity we cannot appeal back to the fetish of national culture and cultural
authenticity. Our object of study is rather Disneyfication, the production of simulacra
of national cultures; and tourism, the industry that organizes the consumption of those
simulacra and those spectacles or images” (379).

60. Hsinya Huang, “Representing Indigenous Bodies in Epeli Hau‘ofa and Syaman
Rapongan,” Tamkang Review 40, no. 2 (June 2010): 5.

61. Huang, “Representing Indigenous Bodies in Epeli Hau‘ofa and Syaman Rapongan,” 8.
62. For more on this multi-sited “trans-indigenous” work, see Hsinya Huang et al., “Special

Forum: Charting Transnational Native American Studies,” Journal of Transnational
American Studies 4, no. 1 (2012): 1–15.

63. Albert Saijo, OUTSPEAKS (Honolulu, HI: Bamboo Ridge Press, 1997), 163.
64. Saijo, OUTSPEAKS, 139–45.
65. Saijo, OUTSPEAKS, 197.
66. Saijo, OUTSPEAKS, 199. In Jan Ken Po: Live in Honolulu (Honolulu: ‘Elepaio Press

2000) and Hawai‘i Dub Machine put together a CD recording the 2000 poetry reading
of these three “transpacific dharma wanderers,” Gary Snyder, Albert Saijo, and Nanao

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Oceania as Peril and Promise 281

Sakaki, whose work from the 1950s to the present has forged an alternative vision
of Asia and the Pacific as tied to modes of planetary belonging, linking the Buddha
and animal with the human. Saijo’s poems like “O Muse” deftly invoke and honor this
“RADIONCARBONIC” and “BIOLUMINESCENT” oneness of body (bios) with the
radio-waves, carbonic presence, and light of world (OUTSPEAKS, 13).

67. Craig Santos Perez, from Unincorporated Territory [hacha] (Honolulu: Tinfish Press,
2008), 11.

68. Perez, from Unincorporated Territory [hacha], 10. Further references will occur

69. Craig Santos Perez, from Unincorporated Territory [saina] (Richmond, CA: Omnidawn,
2010), 44–46.

70. See also Epeli Hau’ofa, “Pasts to Remember,” We Are the Ocean: Selected Works (Honolulu:
University of Hawai’i Press, 2008), 63

71. Perez, from Unincorporated Territory [saina], 47. Further references to [saina] will occur
parenthetically in this paragraph.

72. See also Hsuan L. Hsu, “Gua’han (Guam), Literary Emergence, and the American Pacific
in Homebase and from unincorporated territory,” American Literary History 24 (2012):
281–307; and Otto Heim, “Locating Guam: The Cartography of the Pacific and Craig
Santos Perez’s Remapping of Unincorporated Territory,” in New Directions in Travel
Writing Studies, ed. Julia Kuehn and Paul Smethurst (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan,
2015), 180–91.

73. Gary Snyder, A Place in Space: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Watersheds (Berkeley: Counterpoint,
1995), 233.

74. Gary Snyder, A Place in Space, 255.
75. Gary Snyder, A Place in Space, 234.
76. Gary Snyder, The Old Ways: Six Essays (San Francisco: City Lights Press, 1977), 3–9.
77. Gary Snyder, “North Beach,” The Old Ways, 5.
78. Snyder, Earth House Hold, 135–43.
79. Nanao Sakaki, Break the Mirror (Berkeley: North Point, 1987), 140–42.
80. Iain Sinclair, “Gary Snyder: The Man in the Clearing,” London Review of Books 34, no. 10

(May 2012), accessed online: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n10/iain-sinclair/the-man-in-

81. Rob Wilson, Be Always Converting, Be Always Converted, 15.
82. Lawrence Buell, Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment

in the U.S. and Beyond (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2003), 22.
83. James Clifford, “Indigenous Articulations,” in The Worlding Project: Doing Cultural

Studies in the Era of Globalization, 22–23.
84. Clifford, “Indigenous Articulations,” 31.
85. See Albert Wendt, Reina Waitiri, and Robert Sullivan, eds., Whetu Moana: Contemporary

Polynesian Poems in English (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2003).
86. Rob Wilson, Be Always Converting Be Always Converted, 139.
87. Cited in Hau‘ofa, We Are the Ocean, 52.
88. In Asia/Pacific as Space of Cultural Production, 345–49. See also Joachim Peter, “Chuukese

Travellers and the Idea of Horizon,” Asia Pacific Viewpoints 41 (2002): 253–67.
89. Chuukese is an Austronesian language of the Malayo-Polynesian family branch dis-

persed across the Pacific islands, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, and thus far

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282 Rob Wilson

more dispersive than the related yet Taiwan-concentrated branch of the Austronesian
language known as the Formosan languages that are used by pre-Han peoples of Taiwan.

90. Asia/Pacific as Space of Cultural Production, 349.

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