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Log In Sign Up. Vessels of the Pacific: An Ocean in the Blood, chpt 2 of Routes and Roots Our brains are eighty per cent water. We are more water than blood. So our water ties to papalsgi another are more important than our blood ties! We carry within us the seas out of which we came. Whether rendered as a voyaging canoe, a naval ship, a drifting raft, or metaphorically as ethnic blood, the concept of the vessel is integral to territorial claims of indigenous sovereignty as well as masculine ethnic regionalism.

A second and related spatial contortion can be seen in the trope of the isolated island laboratory, which I explain pappalagi constituted by an alliance between the U. This island isolation theory could be sustained only by denying the agency of indigenous maritime technology that connected the islands for millen- nia before the arrival of Europeans.

As explained in the introduction, etak represents a complex methodology of navigating space and time, rendering land and sea in dynamic and shifting interrelation.

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Building upon the work of Vicente Diaz and J. By rendering the voy- aging canoe as a metonymy of a moving island, this chapter positions the circulation of these indigenous vessels as a tidalectic engagement of routes and roots. The ethnic contours of this native-diaspora intractability are nicely sum- marized by Hawaiian scholar and poet Haunani-Kay Trask: These voyaging histories are vital to cultural sovereignty in that they highlight indigenous technology and agency, yet are also imbricated in the globalizing shifts in ocean governance.

The very terms with which we categorize this era are entangled in the shifting conceptions and territorializations of seas. The Basin of Isolated Laboratories To trace a genealogy of oceanic regionalism one must necessarily engage with the vessels that made it possible for human beings to undertake their travels. The development of region or area studies is con- ceptually and historically tied to Commonwealth, postcolonial and dias- pora studies.

Yet in its efforts to dismantle the ethnic and political boundaries of the nation-state, postcolonial regionalism shares character- istics with the telos of transnational capitalism. Theoretically, one should be able to speak in terms of local indigenous movements alongside global economic shifts, as this chapter intends to do.

Rather, as I will explain, this relationship between Rim and Basin is mutually constitutive. The modernizing Rim is dependent upon historic claims to vessels in the Basin, while conversely, ancient voyaging narratives of the Basin have adopted the globalizing tropes of the Rim to navigate in the economic wake of late capitalism.

Simon Gikandi has suggested that academic discourses of globaliza- tion displace economic considerations by adopting the cultural grammar of postcolonial studies. Yet scholars have tended to amplify rather than deconstruct the gendered eco- nomic and geopolitical imaginaries of the region.

Thus the logic of capital erases itself through its most elemental metaphor: Thus it is not only the ocean that is placed under erasure by the logic of capital but also its metonymic vessels of sovereignty. As a region of more than 2, islands, Micronesia was anything but isolated from the effects of the war and hosted some of the most important transportation bases.

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Navy to describe the establishment of a system of communications, supplies, intelligence, and transport that involved nearly every archipelago across the 7,mile-wide region. For example, in only the last six months of the war, the U.

As one histo- rian observes: By the end of the war, the United States claimed Micronesia as a strategic trust territory and gained 3. I suggest that the amnesia in post- colonial studies about the extent of U.

The discourse of insu- lar islands, sustained by many anthropologists, not only helped to validate nuclear testing in the region but in some cases suppressed its dangerous effects.

Operation Crossroads, a mystifying name for the nuclearization of two supposedly isolated islands, was made possible by naval technologies: Precisely where anthropologists mapped isolation, the United States detonated sixty-six atomic and hydrogen bombs on Enewe- tak and Bikini Atolls between and Robie Howe explains that since colonial contact: The myth of isolation can only be sustained by suppressing the long historical presence of maritime vessels—both indigenous and foreign.


As I will explain, the transoceanic vaka was the focal point of Rim-Basin contention, integral even in its erasure to the regional imaginary.

Well into the twentieth century, amateur and professional ethnologists interpellated Polynesians as one of the lost tribes of Israel, a model of Christian diffu- sionism that was later adapted by Orientalists as an Aryan genealogy that led back to India.

As Patrick Kirch points out: This suggests a European ideologeme of aqua nullius, upon which continental peoples overlaid their presumably more developed cultures. In this case, deliberate ocean-voyaging Polynesians are preempted by the idea of Incans on a balsa raft, drifting aimlessly on the prevailing currents across 4, miles of open sea.

I draw attention to this suppression of indigenous watercraft because the ship, as I have explained in the previous chapter, generally functions as an important metaphor of the people—a vehicle of the collective will in the past and present.

Alfred Crosby has demonstrated that European empires in the Atlantic developed their island colonization skills by limiting native mobility As his narrative explains, organization of the mission was based on military sponsorship, including his fellow Norwegian ex-servicemen who were his crewmembers. His appropriation of native genealogi- cal systems struck at the epistemic core of Polynesian identities.

Thus his account is a deft blending of purported native superstitions alongside western civilizing benevolence: Like his South Seas narrative forefathers, Heyerdahl positions himself as the originary contact with the pure Polynesian exotic, even when his narrative is derivative of centuries of European mythmaking of the region. As Mary Douglas argues: Military- funded disciplines like anthropology, through projects like the Kon-Tiki, often undermined indigenous histories by projecting the wartime wan- ing of vaka navigation back to the ancient past.

Although the country was experiencing an economic boom, the nation and broader region were undergoing rapid change as Samoans, Cook Islanders, and Maori negotiated with the New Zealand state for decolonization. Blood Vessels and Regional Circulation We sweat and cry salt water, so we know that the ocean is really in our blood. Overall we can describe Rim-Basin tensions as competing claims to the region that are validated through originary and racialized narratives of diaspora.

Yet in the past few decades the resurgence of indigenous inter-island voyaging has offered an originary regional genealogy for Oceania as well as a naturalized precursor to late twentieth-century diaspora practice. Due to the tensions and violence that erupted between some haole white and Hawaiian men over their claims to the vaka, Piailug refused to guide the vessel back from Tahiti and reportedly abandoned the crew in disgust.

The lynchpin to use a nautical term of this debate hinged on divergent interpretations of the purpose of this vessel and its genealogical relation to the broader region. As I have discussed in the previous chapter, the soil, while symbolically and materially invested with human history, is conceptualized more as a product of the national body—its excess—than the internalized and circulatory semantics of the sea.

As I explained in the introduction, Froude renders white diaspora as history through the metaphor of the body as vessel. Through the metaphor of blood vessels, white British bodies became naturalized as the empire that ruled the waves. Although salt water is one of the densest liquids on earth, its narrative history makes it heavier. The Way to Tahiti, Finney recounts how his attempts to integrate Hawaiian customs, blessings by kahuna priestsand the broader commu- nity into the project threatened the itinerary and objectives of the voyage.

Thus Finney and the newspaper accounts of this time racialize Polynesian ancestry by demarcating percentages of Hawaiian blood while putting whiteness under erasure.

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As a result, indigenous distance from urban centers becomes proportional to native authenticity in a way that is not applied to white subjects. While the voyage had been characterized by animosities throughout, it erupts into violence on the last night at sea.

When they arrive the next day to tens of thousands of anticipant Tahitians including Bengt Danielsson of the Kon- TikiFinney is sporting a black eye and their local sponsors become con- cerned about the fractious behavior of the crew. The bicentennial itinerary, which reenacts a historical and genealogical trajectory between two Polynesian archipelagoes under continuing colonial rule, appar- ently did not seem problematic to the Voyaging Society and its federal U.


The racial language in which these narratives interpellate degrees of authentic Hawaiianess draws from a colonial grammar that J.

Native activists were resisting the heightened militarization of their islands by U. Rapid development of tourist complexes, hotels, and golf courses compounded the land alienation that papaalagi begun with the militarization of the state in the late nineteenth century.

It was precisely the return of these alienated lands and the opposition to the continuing process of land paaplagi that was at the center of sovereignty mobilization.

Navy bombing practice site since World War II The continued destruction of this island was considered an affront to its sacred history and a palpable threat to nearby Maui residentsso activists petitioned for its return to Kanaka Maoli guardianship. Read tidalectically, terrestrial U. Navy operations, tensions about maritime sov- ereignty, coded in terms of indigenous versus nation-state vessels, became the focal point. Consequently, my ques- tion as to why a Polynesian vessel should have been expected papalagk symbolize the U.

Yet the presence of modern, active indigenous subjects often challenges the temporal segrega- tion of native culture from the colonial state. As Trask has famously declared: And yet byradiation contamination was registered 2, miles away in Samoa where it contributed to local casualties.

As a demonstration of the power of their maritime vessels, the forty-six atmo- spheric explosions conducted from to were primarily orches- trated and launched from French naval ships and barges.

My previous chapter explained the ways in which seafaring vessels were articulated in terms of a metaphoric body of the people.

In the same edition, columnist Sammy Amalu posed an alternative vision of regionalism: Importantly, he mapped out temporal continuity for indigenous regionalism.

While citing the opposi- tion to French, British, and U. As icons of native movement, of rooted routes, the voyaging canoe naturalizes migration and avoids the patholo- gizing language reserved for refugees that Liisa Malkki has documented in the grammar of diaspora.

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Moreover, the etak concept of moving islands desta- bilizes the myth of isolation and renders the indigenous peoples of Ocea- nia as active participants in the world historical process. The semantics of the canoe itself encode the body of the ancestors, providing a genealogical rendering of place as an alternative to colonial historiography in a way that is conceptually tied to the continuity of the social body. As Paul Sharrad has shown: At the start of The Crocodile, the protagonist Hoiri resides in a rural village where the laka- toi double-hulled outrigger is presented as a unifying material object.

Indigenous watercraft and labor are appropriated without compensation, particularly in the Allied effort against the Japanese invasion. While his maritime travels with the Allies open his perspective to a broader regional understanding of what will become the island nation of independent Papua New Guinea, his last sea voyage is described in terms of bewitchment and terror.

Saga of a Polynesian Canoe b. In the narratives of white and Polynesian diaspora discussed here, these regional connections have generally been articulated in terms of mascu- line ethnic kinship, blood vessels, and political alliance. He demon- strates that women represent tradition and purity through their presumed isolation from the corrupting yet dynamic public realm of transnational trade, colonization, and exchange.

Written by the former prime minister of the Cook Islands, Vaka rep- resents the only historical novel that attempts to chart Polynesian settle- ment of Oceania. Overall, my work seeks to foreground Islander-based recovery projects and native histories, knowl- edges, and narratives of unity.

As a meticulously researched and documented account of precolonial Polynesian cultures, Vaka is at once an ethnographic and historical ren- dering of ocean origins. The vessel changes names nearly ten times depending on its owners and circumstances, and it travels widely from its origin in Upolu Samoa to Fiji, Tonga, Tahiti, Rarotonga, and then it is retired as the well-known founding waka Takitumu in Aotearoa.

It is not that women do not voyage on the vaka, they occasionally do, but Davis neglects to depict them textually, preferring to inscribe a homosocial community of seafarers.