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The Contemporary Pacific 13.2 (2001) 315-342

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Native Pacific Cultural Studies on the Edge

Vicente M Diaz and J Kehaulani Kauanui

THIS SPECIAL ISSUE features work by Native and nonnative Pacific scholars that seeks to triangulate the arenas of "native studies," "Pacific studies," and "cultural studies." 1 We will return to what we mean by triangulation shortly. These invited works were presented at a two-day symposium, "Native Pacific Cultural Studies on the Edge," held on 11-12 February 2000 at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The event was sponsored by the university's Center for Cultural Studies with funding support from a University of California Pacific Rim Research Grant. As joint organizers and conveners of the symposium, we each presented papers as well. One final participant, Donna Matahaere of Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand, unfortunately could not attend. In addition to the papers presented here, the symposium included critical respondents and roundtable participants: Christopher Connery,April Henderson,Adria Lyn Imada, Glen Masato Mimura, Michael Perez, Joakim Peter, John Chock Rosa, and Dana Takagi (see a line-up of the program in the appendix). The event also featured an art installation by Angelina Naidu and Teresia Teaiwa--"Postcards from the Edge"--and an exhibit by Jewel Castro, "Daughters of Salamasina."

The symposium sought to explore notions of Pacific indigeneity as they circulate through geographical, cultural, political, and historical flows of people(s), things, knowledge, power--between islands and continents.We asked participants to discuss alternative grounds on which to stake native Pacific cultural studies for the twenty-first century. Our guiding question was What happens when the grounds of indigeneity (of Pacific Islanderness) get too fixed or move too far?What we wanted to feature most of all was what we wish to call native productions of indigeneity.We wanted to feature the edges of what is normally taken to be traditional native territory; [End Page 315] in the face of diaspora and globalization, but without relinquishing the groundedness of indigenous identity, politics, theory, method, and aesthetics.

On The Move

The Pacific is on the move, unleashing forces along its edges (especially) that have the twin powers to destroy and to create. Long before modern theories of plate tectonics, or postmodern epistemologies, Pacific Islanders have enshrined this dialectic in cosmologies and performance, as well as in seafaring technologies and dynamic cartographies. At the dawn of a new millennium, Pacific Islanders continue a history of production and destruction through active participation in and resistance to a tide of forces that have swept our shores: colonialism, patriarchy, militarism, Christianity, nationhood,development, tourism, literacy, athletics, other forceful modes of modernity, and for us especially, scholarship. For descendants of ancient seafarers, and survivors of more recent and ongoing histories of colonialism and their displacements, these entanglements provide new opportunities for mobility and travel as well as new forms of incarceration and oppression.

In introducing the works that follow, we point to key areas of concern and questions that we believe crosscut the three fields and raise the cultural, political, and analytical antes in the contest over Pacific indigeneity. Our desire to address contestations over Pacific indigeneity by triangulating Native, Pacific, and cultural studies is drawn from kindred but distinct lines of critical questioning raised by a decade of academic conferences and publications across the Pacific and within a broader context of more vocal indigenous struggles. Peering at the horizon from multiple locations, we ask: What might cultural studies offer Native (Pacific) studies and vice versa? What are specific Pacific Islander contributions to cultural studies? How (or what) might cultural studies contribute to projects of decolonization and sovereignty struggles? And what could projects of decolonization offer cultural studies? In what follows, we provide a brief, thematic, and highly partial reading of signs that point us toward new terrain, uncertain seas, between the three areas.We begin with a highly customized method of triangulation as a native style of analysis and mode of politics.

In trigonometry the process of triangulation involves locating a point by using bearings from two other...


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