Climate change, in terms of its current and future impacts, is a critical issue for the Pacific Islands. However, many journalistic and academic accounts reiterate a narrative that represents Pacific Islanders as hopeless and helpless victims of climate change and their homelands as already lost to rising seas. This reinforces the preexisting marginalization of the Pacific Islands region that has been both highlighted and challenged by Epeli Hau‘ofa’s “sea of islands” vision. However, analyzing the actions of the pan-Pacific activist network the Pacific Climate Warriors through the lens of Hau‘ofa’s work suggests alternative narratives to the drowning islands discourse. This article draws on ethnographic research conducted with the Pacific Climate Warriors, who converged in Australia in October 2014 to take action against climate change, assembling a flotilla of canoes and kayaks in Newcastle Harbor to halt coal barges. Using song, dance, and direct action, the Warriors embodied forms of Oceanic regionalism, expressing fluid and composite pan-Pacific identities and enacting forms of world enlargement, thereby resonating with Hau‘ofa’s vision. Their manifestation of regionalism was predicated on difference rather than homogeneity in terms of their “relative altitudinal privilege,” complicating representations of the Warriors as equally on the front lines of climate change. Through their actions and their claims that they are “not drowning but fighting,” the Pacific Climate Warriors worked to counter the belittlement of the Pacific Islands region and present a vision of Oceanic power.


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pp. 341-369
Launched on MUSE
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