From an ideology of ‘Place’ to an ontology of ‘Presence’: Towards a new constellation in Pacific thought

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Journal Article
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Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies
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Rakuita, Tui

The notion of ‘Place’ in discourses on the Pacific or, more specifically, on Oceanic identity has, for a variety of reasons, been imbued with uncertain ethical and ideological provenance. At best it misrecognises the intrinsic nomadic disposition in the Oceanian psyche by mooring it to ‘land’. At worst, it is quite oblivious to contemporary realities in Oceania; realities that are increasingly defined, on the one hand, by an exclusionary form of politics tied to an ideology of place and, on the other, by existential threats such as climate change and sealevel rise. This paper argues that we cannot tie the fate of our pan-oceanic identity to, as it happened, increasingly ephemeral things like 'place’. The piece, therefore, seeks to shift the semiotic register beyond the current discursive inscriptions associated with ‘an ideology of place’ (and its attendant politics of identity) towards a more honest reassessment of contemporary ‘regimes of truth’ in Oceania – regimes that are firmly premised on the discursive practices as well as ideological articulations of Oceanic histories. The main aim of this essay is to invite Indigenous scholars to start thinking about, and discussing the way forward.

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CC BY 4.0