- Editor’s Note
We are proud to present “Pacific Currents,” the first special issue of American Quarterly under the Hawai‘i-based editorial team. We chose this theme to showcase the unique intervention into American studies enabled by our particular vantage point.
Whether motivated by the strategic interests in the Pacific, the rise of East Asian and Southeast Asian economies, a spiritual search for alternatives to Western modernity, or a pursuit of exoticism, romance, and adventure, men and women of the United States have long looked toward the Pacific. In recent years, China’s rise as a global hegemon has made the United States’ political and economic pivot to the Pacific all the more urgent. In the scholarly discourse of American studies as well, the field’s transnational turn and the increasing attention to the cultures of US Empire have directed many scholars’ inquiries to the Pacific. Yet what the “Pacific” typically signifies in these contexts is that which lies across the ocean from the United States and the nations on the edges of the “Pacific Rim”—that is, East Asian and Southeast Asian nations as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand—rather than Oceania. The question posed by Arif Dirlik’s classic essay, “What Is in a Rim?,” is still largely neglected, or simply unknown, to many Americanist scholars, even those with expertise in such areas as colonialism and imperialism, militarism, decolonization, immigration, and globalization. Even when the Pacific Islands and Pacific Islanders figure into these discussions, they are often seen as subjects on which European, American, and Asian hegemonies are enacted and/or those to be included in the rubric of Asian America.
This special issue is an explicit attempt to shift the terms of such discourses. By focusing our attention on the Pacific itself, the essays in this volume insist on the centrality of Indigenous subjects to the ocean and the islands, as well as to the nations and continents surrounding them. Rather than merely include Pacific Island studies in American studies or search for the intersections and convergences of the two fields, the guest editors and the contributors remain adamantly focused on the tensions and dissonances between the projects of American studies and Native Pacific studies and challenge American studies scholars to see what anticolonial Pacific currents look like. They treat the islands’ inhabitants as agents of histories, memories, and stories, and urge us to trace the origins, flows, and destinations of “Pacific currents” in dramatically different ways than has typically been done. Diverse not only in topics but also in standpoints, modes of narration, and forms of praxis, works featured [End Page vii] in this volume represent the kinds of critical intervention the Hawai‘i-based editorial team seeks to bring to American Quarterly. On behalf of the editorial board, I express my profound respect and gratitude to the guest editors Paul Lyons and Ty Kāwika Tengan, and the scholars, activists, and artists who have taken on this important challenge and allowed American studies and American Quarterly in their midst. [End Page viii]