PhD project

Since Epeli Hau’ofa’s essay Our Sea of Islands was published in 1994, scholars attached to the Pacific Studies project have worked to create an academic movement that empowers communities, reclaims representative power and recognises the dazzling diversity of Oceania. My work aligns Pacific Studies with global movements calling for the decolonisation of academia. In the university context, decolonisation demands that scholars and students dismantle colonial structures, embrace indigenous epistemologies and ontologies, and work towards respectful, reflexive and inclusive practices. While many activists and scholars have produced persuasive calls for decolonised theory, there have been few works that engage in sustained investigation into how decolonised practice is enacted. Using Pacific Studies as a case study, I ask how decolonisation is realised in research, teaching, outreach and artistic collaboration. My multi-sited ethnography will track decolonised practice across Pacific Studies sites: university campuses and classrooms, conferences, community engagement programs and arts festivals. I echo others in conceptualising Pacific Studies as a va’a in a vā – a canoe which traverses cultural difference, navigates plural epistemologies, and uses collaboration and cultural knowledge to weather transformative storms. I hope that this case study might suggest a model for decolonised critical humanities to thrive.

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