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We Are the Ocean

We Are the Ocean: Selected Works

Epeli Hau‘ofa
Copyright Date: 2008
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  • Book Info
    We Are the Ocean
    Book Description:

    We Are the Ocean is a collection of essays, fiction, and poetry by Epeli Hau‘ofa, whose writing over the past three decades has consistently challenged prevailing notions about Oceania and prescriptions for its development. He highlights major problems confronted by the region and suggests alternative perspectives and ways in which its people might reorganize to relate effectively to the changing world. Hau‘ofa’s essays criss-cross Oceania, creating a navigator’s star chart of discussion and debate. Spurning the arcana of the intellectual establishments where he was schooled, Hau‘ofa has crafted a distinctive—often lyrical, at times angry—voice that speaks directly to the people of the region and the general reader. He conveys his thoughts from diverse standpoints: university-based analyst, essayist, satirist and humorist, and practical catalyst for creativity. According to Hau‘ofa, only through creative originality in all fields of endeavor can the people of Oceania hope to strengthen their capacity to engage the forces of globalization. “Our Sea of Islands,” “The Ocean in Us,” “Pasts to Remember,” and “Our Place Within,” all of which are included in this collection, outline some of Hau‘ofa’s ideas for the emergence of a stronger and freer Oceania. Throughout he expresses his concern with the environment and suggests that the most important role that the “people of the sea” can assume is as custodians of the Pacific, the vast area of the world’s largest body of water.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6554-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xx)
    Geoffrey White

    Many readers who come to this volume will need no introduction to the essays that follow. This is fortunate since Epeli Hau‘ofa’s writings have traversed so many spaces in Oceania that any attempt to introduce them is condemned to partiality if not triviality. That said, it is with ambivalent gratitude that I acknowledge Epeli’s invitation to provide a few prefatory notes.

    In 2003 Epeli gave a series of invited talks at the University of Hawai‘i and the East-West Center. Everyone in attendance knew that he was at it again; stirring things up with a new project: the Oceania Centre for...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  5. Part I: Rethinking

    • Anthropology and Pacific Islanders
      (pp. 3-10)

      It is a painful experience for people to sit and listen to someone talking about himself. But the theme of this symposium and my rather peculiar situation warrant a personal statement that I shall make as briefly as possible. I speak this morning from two standpoints: firstly, as someone who is undergoing training in a particular academic discipline that binds me intellectually with fellow anthropologists, mostly from the West; and secondly as a native of the South Pacific Islands whose cultures have provided, for nearly a century, a very substantial part of the field of exploitation for our anthropological enterprise....

    • The New South Pacific Society: Integration and Independence
      (pp. 11-24)

      I would like to advance the view that there already exists in our part of the world a single regional economy upon which has emerged a South Pacific society, the privileged groups of which share a single dominant culture with increasingly marginalised local subcultures shared by the poorer classes. The regional society is emerging from the process of decolonisation that, contrary to stated intentions, has integrated the Pacific Islands into the Australian/New Zealand economy and society to the extent that the islands cannot or will not disentangle themselves. In view of this integration, we must reexamine many of the assumptions...

  6. Part II: Reflecting

    • Our Sea of Islands
      (pp. 27-40)

      This essay raises some issues of great importance to our region and offers a view of Oceania that is new and optimistic. What I say here is likely to disturb a number of men and women who have dedicated their lives to Oceania and for whom I hold the greatest respect and affection and always will.

      In our region, two levels of operation are pertinent to the purposes of this essay. The first level is that of national governments and regional and international diplomacy, in which the present and future of Pacific Island states and territories are planned and decided...

    • The Ocean in Us
      (pp. 41-59)

      In a previous essay, I advanced the notion of a much enlarged world of Oceania that has emerged through the astounding mobility of our peoples in the last fifty years (Hau‘ofa 1993). Most of us are part of this mobility, whether personally or through the movements of our relatives. This expanded Oceania is a world of social networks that crisscross the ocean all the way from Australia and New Zealand in the southwest to the United States and Canada in the northeast. It is a world that we have created largely through our own efforts and have kept vibrant and...

    • Pasts to Remember
      (pp. 60-79)

      In an earlier publication (1993), I offered a view of ourselves that is more optimistic than the currently prevailing notions of our present and future as peoples of Oceania. That view is tied to my firmly held belief that all social realities are human creations—and that if we fail to construct our own realities other people will do it for us. It can be said that this concern is much ado about nothing. I wish that this were true, but it is not. People with powerful connections have presented us in certain ways that have influenced our self-perceptions and...

    • Our Place Within: Foundations for a Creative Oceania
      (pp. 80-94)

      As in other places in our world, modern institutions in Oceania, such as the University of the South Pacific (USP), are continually being restructured and otherwise redesigned to synchronise their activities with the processes of globalisation. In this fiercely competitive environment there should be no room for free-ranging imagination and creativity of the kinds not tailored to the demands of the global economy.

      But such a space exists within the University of the South Pacific, our region’s leading training institution for globalisation. And it is part of my purpose here to talk about its genesis, its objectives and hopes for...

  7. Part III: Creating

    • The Writer as an Outsider
      (pp. 97-109)

      It is said that, at the age of forty, most middle-class men have led, for at least fifteen years, a secure, sedentary life. By then they have raised their families, reached the pinnacle of their achievements, and gained the respect of their fellow Establishmentarians. Having attained all or most of what they have aspired to, or reached the highest point to which they can ascend, they are confronted at forty with the imminence of their declining years, the stark outlines of their mortality. This often leads such men to resort to desperate measures to retain their powers, to maintain the...

    • The Glorious Pacific Way
      (pp. 110-119)

      “I hear you’re collecting oral traditions. Good work. It’s about time someone started recording and preserving them before they’re lost for ever,” said the nattily dressed Mr. Harold Minte in the slightly condescending though friendly tone of a born diplomat, which Mr. Minte actually was.

      “Thank you, sir,” Ole Pasifikiwei responded shyly. He was not given to shyness, except in the presence of foreigners, and on this sultry evening at a cocktail party held in the verdant gardens of the International Nightlight Hotel, Ole was particularly reticent.

      Through the persistent prodding of an inner voice which he had attributed to...

    • The Tuktuks: (Excerpt from Kisses in the Nederends)
      (pp. 120-124)

      In his vision Seru saw the human body as a world in itself, a world inhabited by human-like creatures, the tuktuks, who organised themselves into tribes occupying territories located only in those parts of the body that contained organs and members, the most populous being lands in the lower erogenous regions. The arms and the legs were completely uninhabited and were visited only occasionally by a few intrepid hunters.

      Tuktuk territories were grouped into upper and lower zones. Uppertuk tribes were those that occupied territories above the solar plexus, the Lowertuk tribes being those that lived from the abdomen down....

    • Oilei and Babu: (Excerpt from Kisses in the Nederends)
      (pp. 125-135)

      It was late in the afternoon when Bulbul arrived. He emerged from the driver’s seat, walked to the other side, and opened the passenger door. A tall, elderly, lean, white-haired and white-bearded man wearing a dhoti and carrying a battered briefcase stepped out, took a deep breath, and, escorted by Bulbul, walked lightly up the path towards the house.

      Oilei watched all this from the open doorway, surprised at seeing his friend acting the chauffeur. But Bulbul, never known to kowtow to the wealthy and the powerful, always deferred reverentially towards holy men of all religions.

      “I have brought the...

    • Epeli Hau‘ofa Interviewed by Subramani
      (pp. 136-154)
      Subramani and Epeli Hau‘ofa

      This interview took place in Suva in September 1988 at the University of the South Pacific where both were teaching, Epeli Hau‘ofa in the Department of Sociology and Subramani in the Department of Literature and Language. Subramani provided a set of thought-provoking written questions; Hau‘ofa then produced written answers. Initially the interview appeared in the New Zealand literary journalLandfall169 (vol. 43, no. 1, 1989, 35–51). The novelKisses in the Nederendshad first been published by Penguin (NZ) in 1987. The University of Hawai‘i Press edition (1995) includes theLandfallinterview.I have no difficulty readingKisses...

  8. Part IV: Revisiting

    • Thy Kingdom Come: The Democratisation of Aristocratic Tonga
      (pp. 157-171)

      First I would like to draw attention to the title of this essay. The first part, Thy Kingdom Come, is not merely a pun on the only existing monarchy in our part of the world, nor is it just part of a publicity stunt. It refers to recent developments in Tonga that exemplify a historical tendency for oppressed or threatened populations to look to religion for liberation or salvation. A powerless community that confronts seemingly entrenched or immovable forces may resort to the supernatural and religiously sanctioned moral codes for the advancement of its cause. Examples abound but the mention...

    • His Majesty King Tāufa‘āhau Tupou IV: An Appreciation
      (pp. 172-179)

      Immediately after the passing away of someone we love, we recall and talk only of the good things he or she has done with and for us. The human failings of the loved one are shelved for later occasions. Earlier today, far away from where we are, our beloved and revered Father of the Nation was launched on his voyage to another realm. We wish that we were at home for that final farewell.¹ I will touch only on how and why we came to hold him so dearly in our hearts. This is neither the time nor the place...

    • Blood in the Kava Bowl
      (pp. 180-182)
  9. Index
    (pp. 183-188)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 189-194)