Twenty years ago, the Tongan anthropologist Epeli Hau'ofa published his deeply influential essay "Our Sea of Islands", arguing that the legacies of colonial belittlement that render the Pacific as 'islands in a far sea' need to be replaced with a more accurate and world-enlarging view. Instead, he argued, we must recognize the primacy of the largest ocean on the planet which facilitated both the legacies of Pacific voyaging as well as contemporary circuits of globalization, rendering the region as 'a sea of islands' better known as Oceania. Hau'ofa’s work made a tremendous contribution to the fields of indigenous, cultural and literary studies of the region. While Hau'ofa was concerned with the ecological health of the ocean, he could not have foreseen the ways in which climate change, particularly sea-level rising, has transformed islands that are in fact threatened by the expansion of the sea, faced with a new era of what has increasingly been termed 'carbon colonialism'. The dramatic changes to the geographies of low-lying atolls in the Pacific have generated an unprecedented body of cultural narratives that are translating the urgency of climate change mitigation to a global audience.
Elizabeth DeLoughrey will here explore the rise in documentaries that are visualizing the challenges faced by island communities such as Taku, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Kiribati as they adapt and, increasingly, migrate in response to the erosion and salinization of their lands, and will raise questions about a type of 'salvage environmentalism' at work in the production of climate change discourse in the global north.
Professor DeLoughrey is renowned for her work on postcolonial ecocriticism, globalization, and literature of diaspora. Her publications include Routes and Roots: Navigating Caribbean and Pacific Island Literatures (2009), Postcolonial Ecologies: Literatures of the Environment (edited with George B. Handley, 2011), and Caribbean Literature and Environment: Between Nature and Culture (edited with Renée K. Gosson and George B. Handley, 2005).
The workshop, taking place between 2.00pm and 4.00pm, will be followed by a 45-minute talk from Professor DeLoughry, plus 15 minutes Q & A, and the day will close with a wine reception.