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Remaking Micronesia

Remaking Micronesia: Discourses over Development in a Pacific Territory 1944-1982

David Hanlon
Copyright Date: 1998
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    Remaking Micronesia
    Book Description:

    America's efforts at economic development in the Caroline, Mariana, and Marshall Islands proved to be about transforming in dramatic fashion people who occupied real estate deemed vital to American strategic concerns. Called "Micronesians," these island people were regarded as other, and their otherness came to be seen as incompatible with American interests. And so, underneath the liberal rhetoric that surrounded arguments, proposals, and programs for economic development was a deeper purpose. America's domination would be sustained by the remaking of these islands into places that had the look, feel, sound, speed, smell, and taste of America - had the many and varied plans actually succeeded. However, the gap between intent and effect holds a rich and deeply entangled history. Remaking Micronesia stands as an important, imaginative, much needed contribution to the study of Micronesia, American policy in the Pacific, and the larger debate about development. It will be an important source of insight and critique for scholars and students working at the intersection of history, culture, and power in the Pacific.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6411-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-X)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. XI-XV)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. XVI-XVI)
  5. Chapter 1 As the Frigate Bird Flies
    (pp. 1-20)

    They lie spread across a vast expanse of ocean in the western Pacific. Their total land area amounts to little more than a thousand square miles. Geographers locate the vast majority of these islands and atolls as being north of the equator and west of the international date line. Considered by some to be among the most peripheral of peripheries, these island bodies nonetheless have been at the center of several of the more historically prominent events of this century. Tarawa, the Truk (now Chuuk) Lagoon, Guam, Saipan, Angaur, and Peleliu served as sites for some of the most vicious,...

  6. Chapter 2 Beginning to Remake Micronesia
    (pp. 21-50)

    It would not be too extreme an interpretive extrapolation to argue that Americans’ encounters with Micronesians drew their informing precedents from earlier confrontations with native peoples on the North American continent. In a still persuasive piece of literary criticism that foreshadowed more contemporary concerns with the issues of texts, contexts, and representation, Roy Harvey Pearce has written of the interplay between the ideas of savagism and civilization on the expanding frontier of the American West.¹ Civilized peoples from Europe regarded as savages the indigenous inhabitants of the continent they sought to claim. In their confrontation with these “Indians,” European settlers,...

  7. Chapter 3 Strategic Developments
    (pp. 51-86)

    The award of a trusteeship, one of eleven granted by the United Nations in the immediate postwar period, did not drastically alter the nature of naval government in the islands called Micronesia. What it did do was sanction a program of major social transformation that operated under the obfuscation provided by the seemingly benign term “trust territory.” “Making them like US” is another way of describing the flawed, considerably less than successful agenda of development imposed during the occupation and postwar years. With its eventual replacement as administering authority by the United States Department of the Interior in July 1951,...

  8. Chapter 4 “Planning Micronesia’s Future”
    (pp. 87-127)

    Development planning, writes Arturo Escobar, is not a neutral process. It acts as a highly ideological, deeply Eurocentric force that in a seemingly caring but actually insidious way works to chart the procedures by which people can be made docile, productive members of a world capitalist order. Escobar locates the beginnings of development planning within the Enlightenment’s advocacy of modernity.¹ The Industrial Revolution disturbed this vision with the general dislocation it inflicted upon European society. Concerns arose about the poverty, disease, and lawlessness resulting from the large influx of migrants into Europe’s industrializing cities of the early nineteenth century.


  9. Chapter 5 Congressing over Development
    (pp. 128-157)

    The complex cultural system of which fishing was an integral part on Kapingamarangi; the long-standing political economy of Pohnpei, which incorporated both local and foreign forms of production into a competitive feasting complex concerned with rank, honor, and status; and the deeply embedded relationship of chiefly power, social class, and land tenure on Yap provide glimpses of the local histories and cultural environments that confronted foreign notions of development. I cite these examples to underscore the already established, preexisting systems of economy that held different, varying notions of productive activities and their purposes. To ask the Kapinga to fish commercially,...

  10. Chapter 6 Dependency? It Depends
    (pp. 158-185)

    The specter of the impending termination of the United Nations Trusteeship Agreement both haunted and compelled the Congress of Micronesia’s deliberations over the issue of economic development. The Carter administration’s intention, announced in early 1977, to terminate the trusteeship by 1981 heightened the anxiety of a Congress struggling with internal divisions as well as outside pressures. Working within the constraints imposed by the nation-state construct, members of the Congress considered what a more autonomous, self-governing, perhaps independent federated grouping of islands might look like and the ways in which such a governmental entity might sustain itself economically.

    What confounded movement...

  11. Chapter 7 Dumping on Ebeye
    (pp. 186-216)

    In much of American Micronesia, efforts at cultural transformation through what has been called economic development proved a slow, confused, erratic, incomplete, even contradictory process at times. Not so in the Marshall Islands, however; more particularly on those atolls and islands disturbed directly and deeply by America’s nuclear testing program. Here, strategic imperatives allowed little or no time for a program of planned transformation. Understanding the dominant discourse of economic development in Micronesia, then, entails recognizing the consequences of its initial absence. For many Marshallese, there would be no discursive rhetoric with which to contend, but rather an immediate, direct,...

  12. Chapter 8 The End of History for the Edge of Paradise?
    (pp. 217-240)

    All of the discourses over economic development in Micronesia anticipated the termination of the 1947 Trusteeship Agreement between the United States and the United Nations. Negotiations over an alternative and future political status for the islands came to center on free association, a curious hybrid concept that sought to sustain American strategic interests through limited concessions to local autonomy. For the Caroline and Marshall Islands, free association seemed to offer a constrained, almost neocolonial future. For the United States, free association presented, in the words of one astute observer, the opportunity of “staying while leaving”¹ and of buying out of...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 241-270)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 271-294)
  15. Index
    (pp. 295-306)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 307-307)