In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Editor's Note:Interdisciplinarity Reimagined1
  • Vilsoni Hereniko

Once there was a tree called "niu."2 Every part of the tree was useful for sustaining physical and spiritual life: the Islanders used the leaves to weave beautiful baskets, fans, hats, floor coverings, and thatch, and they used the trunks for house posts, drums, and wooden vessels. The Islanders drank the sweet nectar of the tree's coconuts and snacked on the firm flesh all day long; they made cooking sauces from the fermented flesh, wove strong rope from the husks, and made coconut milk to cook all kinds of delicious food dishes, desserts, and more. This was a tree that gave in all kinds of ways; every single part of the tree had a use. It was the most generous of trees, so the people called it "the tree of life." And the people were happy.

Many years later, strangers came to this island with their money and seduced them with what money could buy: good-paying jobs, better houses, more material or foreign things to own, fancy cars and clothes, and so on. Their lawmakers also told them that if they wanted the foreigners from outside to keep coming with their dollars, they had to remove all the coconuts from the trees in case they fell on the heads of strangers who did not know anything about the tree. And the people believed.

Suddenly, an invisible virus attacked all the people on the island, including the foreigners. So the strangers fled back to where they came from. The people lost their jobs. Without money, they could not afford to buy food from the supermarkets. Instead, they had to stay at home, wear masks around their faces, and protect themselves from the virus or they would die.

While everyone and everything was on lockdown, the coconut trees started to bear fruit again. There being no people available to abort the emerging coconuts, the fruit of the trees grew to full maturity. When the pandemic was over and the Islanders reappeared, they saw the coconuts on the trees again! It was then that they REMEMBERED what the tree had meant to them before the strangers appeared. They said to themselves, "Never again!" And they resumed planting groves of coconut trees to [End Page ix] prepare for a future that is not dependent on the money the strangers brought with them.

And niu, the coconut tree, the tree of life, smiled upon the Islanders and became its generous and giving self once again. And the people not only survived, but thrived.3


We are the sea, we are the ocean, we must wake up to this ancient truth and together use it to overturn all hegemonic views that aim ultimately to confine us again, physically and psychologically, in the tiny spaces that we have resisted accepting as our sole appointed places and from which we have recently liberated ourselves. We must not allow anyone to belittle us again, and take away our freedom.4

Written in 1993, these powerful words by the Tongan academic and sage Epeli Hau'ofa concluded his famous essay "Our Sea of Islands," which inspired and challenged a whole generation of scholars and students in Pacific studies to remain free—in their thinking and in their pursuit of knowledge and creativity. The ripple effect of those words can still be felt today in Oceania and beyond. Even though Hau'ofa has passed away, his words still remain the most inspirational lines ever written by a Pacific Islander about our beloved region we call Oceania. These words could help us navigate our way within the colonial institution of the university where publication is necessary for survival.

What has happened to the coconut tree around Waikīkī and urban Honolulu especially, and increasingly so around hotels and urban spaces around Oceania, is a visual representation of Hau'ofa's concern: that we will be forced to remain "in tiny spaces," confined, controlled, coerced in invisible ways to conform to hegemonic views or ways of representing ourselves and ideas (in "academic" writing as well) that are not unique to us. To each of us. What happens then is that we...