- Archipelagic American Studies ed. by Brian Russell Roberts and Michelle Ann Stephens
In their new anthology, Archipelagic American Studies, editors Brian Russell Roberts and Michelle Ann Stephens deliberately embark from the continental bias of American studies into the world's waters. With a reenvisioning of the American imaginary as one of relational assemblages across and between land and sea, this collection interconnects disparate and distant oceans, shores, canoes, "moving islands," and even the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In a transformative series of essays from scholars around the world, the collection destabilizes, reorients, and expands conceptualizations of an America defined by/as imperial territorialities. Methodologically diverse and challenging, it takes up central questions ranging from fields related to area studies (specifically Pacific and Caribbean studies), to postcolonial studies, to Native American and Indigenous studies. In a collection that examines both the metaphoric and the material impacts of colonial rhetorics, each of the essays presents new and dynamic methodological approaches for scholars interested in the afterlives of empire.
This lengthy and detailed collection traverses the globe and challenges its readers to contemplate the ways in which they conceptualize islands. Roberts and Stephens's extensive introduction, "Archipelagic American Studies: Decontinentalizing the Study of American Culture," begins the book by examining versions of American history dominated by narratives of continental centrality. These narratives, fueled by the colonial mapping of oceans, ignore an islands-oriented or archipelagic view of America, the Americas, and American studies, broadly. To counteract these omissions, Robert and Stephens "decontinentalize" through a presentation of new planetary topographies and topologies. Through a variety of case studies, including maps, fractal figures, digital images, and Marshallese stick charts, they present an extensive literature review of where nissology (the study of islands) has been, and where it might be headed. Assemblages of islands, archipelagos, and [End Page 552] islands-as-archipelagos provide new methodological terms and ways of reading that challenge the traditional, hierarchical constructions of space on which American studies has long relied, instead asserting the importance of Indigenous decolonial rhetorics and praxis. This collection reexamines the ways in which colonial, neoliberal borders perpetuate divisions between cultural and linguistic neighbors and contact zones. In their investigation of what constitutes an "archipelago" historically and contemporarily, the writers in this collection emphasize transnational, transindigenous, and decolonial methodologies to encourage writers, scholars, and teachers to rethink the relationships between islands, nations, tribes, and settler-states, both proximate and distant.
Following the introduction, the book unfolds over seven sections: "Theories and Methods for an Archipelagic American Studies," "Archipelagic Mappings and Meta-Geographies," "Empires and Archipelagoes," "Islands of Resistance," "Ecologies of Relation," "Insular Imaginaries," and "Migrating Identities, Moving Borders." The essays cover an extensive area, both methodologically and geographically, across both sides of the North and South American continents. A key point of inquiry across most of the essays, ocean-oriented or otherwise, is using geographically comparative models to spur readers to reexamine the inter- and intrarelationality within area studies. As presented by several authors (eg, Etsuko Taketani; Birte Blascheck and Teresia Teaiwa), the migrations of diasporic communities require conceptualizing the relationships between and among lands and seas beyond national or cultural borders.
While the breadth of geographical coverage the book provides is vital and commendable, readers of The Contemporary Pacific will benefit from the strong attention this book gives to the Pacific region, whether engaging in Oceanic studies, Pacific Rim studies, or Transpacific studies. There are several clear interlocutors for many of the writers in this collection: Elizabeth DeLoughrey's work on Pacific and Caribbean islands and archipelagos, particularly her book Routes and Roots (2010), and Paul Glissant's Poetics of Relation (1997) appear frequently and drive many of the authors' critical framing. Readers familiar with Arif Dirlik's What Is in a Rim: Critical Perspectives on the Pacific Region Idea (1993) or Rob Wilson and Vilsoni Hereniko's Inside Out: Literature, Cultural Politics, and Identity in the New...