Theme: In Their Own Words
‘Oral traditions contain a close approximation of the past as lived, experienced and understood in the people’s own words long before the coming of the Europeans to our shores,’ wrote the late i-Kiribati historian, Kambati Uriam, in his 1995 monograph, In Their Own Words. The title and sentiments of his work provide the inspiration for the 2021 Pacific History Association conference, creating a link to discussions in the 1985 and 2008 Suva conferences and pointing to the future of Pacific history scholarship.
When the Pacific History Association met in Suva in 1985, the cultural context of discussions among Pacific Island intellectuals was set largely against Western frameworks. The outcome of the conference was clear, ‘Pacific Islanders should be the ultimate intellectual arbiters of Pacific History’. A precondition for this is that Pacific Islanders should engage by recreating Pacific history ‘in their own words’.
The core question posed at the 2008 Suva conference was ‘Who are we and what are we doing here?’ While the number of indigenous Pacific historians has steadily grown with each PHA wave in the Pacific, the texts and contexts of scholarship have remained largely foreign and distant, and remains a contested platform by those studying and living in Le Pasefika.
Strategically, the Pacific is at the centre of global debates on climate change and sustainable development, and there has been a resurgence in historical indigenous knowledge as a solution to contemporary challenges in our societies. How can history become more visible and more audible as a strong voice in public discourse on the environment, traditional knowledge, faith, migration, health and education? The 2021 PHA is an opportunity for scholars, for historians in particular, both from the Islands and beyond, to reimagine, resource and reshape our region’s past, present and future.
Dr. Tarisi Vunidilo
Tarisi Vunidilo has a MSc in Anthropology and a Postgraduate Diploma in Maori and Pacific Development, from the University of Waikato, a Postgraduate Diploma in Arts, majoring in Archaeology, from the Australian National University, and a BA in Geography, History and Sociology from the University of South Pacific. She has published two books and several articles about Fijian pottery, language and archaeology. She completed her PhD in Pacific Studies in January 2016 on the topic of “iYau Vakaviti - Fijian Treasures, Cultural Rights and Repatriation of Cultural Materials from International Museums”, at the Centre of Pacific Island Studies at the University of Auckland. She was a Professional Teaching Fellow and Lecturer at the University of Auckland from 2012 to May 2018 before taking up her new role as Assistant Professor in Anthropology at the University of Hawaii-Hilo.
Rev. Dr. Latu Latai
Reverend Latu Latai is an ordained Minister of the Congregational Christian Church Samoa. He is a Senior Lecturer in Church and Pacific History at Malua Theological College. He is also the Coordinator for the Malua Bible School, an ecumenical school for lay people in the community. Latu has a Masters of Theology with Distinction (2005) from the Pacific Theological College in Suva and a PhD (2016) from the Australian National University. He is a husband and a father of a six year old daughter and a two year old son.
Myjolynne “Mymy” Kim is an educator, research scholar and community advocate from Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia. She received her undergraduate degree from Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and her master’s degree in Pacific Islands Studies from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Her MA thesis, “Combating ‘Dreaded Hogoleu’: Re-Centering Chuukese Stories and Histories of Chuukese Warfare” uses Chuukese stories to prioritise local voices and perspectives in re-telling the history of violence and warfare in Chuuk. She is currently completing her PhD with the Australian National University.