Imagining Oceania: Indigenous and foreign representations of a sea of islands

Margaret Jolly*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    77 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper considers the relation of indigenous and foreign in how "the Pacific" and the "Pacific Rim" have been and are imagined. First, I ponder the power of cartography through the lens of two maps derived from the eighteenth century and speculate as to how such maps differed from indigenous genealogies of places and peoples. Second, I explore the origins and the lasting significance of the partitioning of the Pacific into the spatiotemporal regions of Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia, and consider some indigenous uses of these foreign constructs. Third, I reflect on how academic and policy representations of the Pacific "region" and "rim" have been shaped by geopolitical concerns and developmentalism starting in the 1970s, from the viewpoint of Australia (and in a more fleeting way, the United States). Fourth, through a brief exegesis of the influential writings of Epeli Hau'ofa, I consider his alternative vision of Oceania as a "sea of islands." Finally, I confront the specter of new ethnological typifications derived from a reading of "roots" and "routes" as dichotomy rather than dialectic, and stress the need for refocusing on the relations and creative exchanges between Islanders living in and between region and rim.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)508-545
    Number of pages38
    JournalContemporary Pacific
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


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