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Reviewed by:
  • Pacific Futures: Past and Present ed. by Warwick Anderson et al.
  • Owen Jennings
Pacific Futures: Past and Present, edited by Warwick Anderson, Miranda Johnson, and Barbara Brookes. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2018. isbn 978-0-8248-7445-2; 314 pages, illustrations, maps. Cloth, us $78.00.

To paraphrase the major themes from this edited volume: History is the future, and the future is part of our present. Warwick Anderson, Miranda Johnson, and Barbara Brookes's edited volume, Pacific Futures: Past and Present, is aptly titled, reflecting a collection filled with historical accounts and present conversations, all looking to futures of and about the Pacific region. Like many works in Pacific Islands studies, Pacific Futures opens and closes with Epeli Hau'ofa's transformative insights, notably in Johnson's introduction with the vision of "Our Sea of Islands" and in the book's conclusion with a call for Pacific Islanders to define their pasts and present. This collection, however, focuses heavily on futures, imagined or imposed, by colonial projects and the intentional or unintentional agents of those projects. It explicitly docu ments futures imagined for Pacific Islanders through the figures of the missionary, the anthropologist, the sociologist, the teacher, the cartographer, the geneticist, the scientist, and the empire(s). Many of these are still imagined futures; others have been largely discarded as Pacific Islanders resist futures imagined for them, not by them.

This book is divided into four sections, which together are composed of twelve chapters. The two larger sections, "Genealogies of the Future" and "Weedy Historicities," generally focus on the past. This is key to this book's purpose. In Chris Ballard's "Afterword: Pacific Futurities," he distinguishes the book as not itself centered on futurity, as many have done, but as laying the groundwork for a more "serious" inquiry into Pacific futurities (280). Ballard considers Huli historicity in suggesting a spiral temporality; it is not quite cyclical, but it looks to the past works to imagine the future. Sandwiched between the two larger sections are two smaller ones, titled "Transit Futures" and "Asian Pacifics." These smaller sections are more tightly focused on specific topics.

To start with these smaller sections, the first chapter, Frances Steel's "Time Is on Our Side," looks at the introduction of both steamships and flight to the Pacific, considering British imperial desire to connect Canada and New Zealand, as well as how US military interests aligned with commercial flight. Ships remade the colonial map of the Pacific through necessary refueling, and flying boats privileging previously ignored coral atolls remade the map once more, but [End Page 297] both followed similar logics. Pacific Islands thus become strategic territory for an envisioned transport modernity. New networks followed paths of old ones, and changes in technology were not so much points of rupture but rather of eras converging in more subtle ways. Another colonial view into the Pacific can be seen in Bronwen Douglas's chapter on mapping the Pacific. While maps, including the racial categorization implicit in Dumont d'Urville's "Polynesia," "Micronesia," and "Melanesia," are powerful colonial tools, Douglas ends her chapter with the observation that the claims of colonial maps lie a long way from colonial actuality, with relationships between the two being "slippery and uncertain" (149). Tony Ballantyne's "Imperial Futures and India's Pacifics" and Henry Yu's "Unbound Space" both take a view of the Pacific from the edge, using metaphors of chains and threads crossing the Pacific, linking communities in China and India with their diasporas in the United States, in both cases with British imperial futures in mind.

"Genealogies of the Future" explicitly links the past with the future as an unbroken connection. Most overtly, Alice Te Punga Somerville's chapter, "Inside Us Unborn," challenges us to think of genealogy as a future that is with us in the present, with a focus on the Māori concept of whakapapa. This is one chapter that does focus on Indigenous futures, suggesting that the future Europeans are trying to write for Indigenous peoples is already occupied by a genealogical connection that is not restricted just to ancestors. Matt Matsuda's "Genetic Drift" brings us closer to...