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Reading Across the Pacific: emergent indigenous imaginaries


From TransAtlantic to TransPacific

What would it mean for Canadian scholarship to shift its gaze from transAtlantic imaginaries toward the transPacific? What would it mean for postcolonial studies in Canada to follow local indigenous initiatives of building connections across the Pacific with their Maori and Australian indigenous counterparts? The recent scholarly turn in many disciplines from continental to transoceanic imaginaries is sparking a new set of questions about the frameworks through which knowledge is produced. This paper takes up James Clifford’s reminder that “Native Pacific conditions are importantly different from those generating North Atlantic cultural studies….if Black Atlantic and South Asian diaspora theory is to travel well in the Pacific, there needs to be a significant adaptation to a different map and history” (30). What might that different map and history look like if approached from Canadian locations reading across the Pacific? These are some of the questions prompting me to revisit the sub-field through which I first approached Canadian literature: that of comparative Australian-Canadian studies. This field flourished throughout the 1980s yet gradually diminished as race and identity-based postcolonial studies successfully argued that settler colonial studies had no place within postcolonial theoretical or literary study and as nation-based studies addressing multiculturalism within the nation-state assumed priority. Now, at the turn of a new century, Indigenous Studies are leading to a revival of interest in the particular dynamics and institutional structures of invader-settler colonies around the world, and postcolonial studies is belatedly recognizing the importance of indigenous perspectives.

A paper delivered at Canada and Beyond II: From Sea to Sea and beyond Universidade de Vigo June 25-27, 2012

The paper may be read online

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