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From the Print Journal

Towards an Oceanian Modernism

© 2022 Johns Hopkins University Press

In an essay on Herman Melville, D. H. Lawrence describes the Pacific Islands as “a vast vacuum, in which, mirage-like, continues the life of myriads of ages back.”[1] Modernist studies has yet to awaken from this dream of Oceania as the hazy antithesis of modernity, a place “not come to any modern consciousness”: although the tide is turning, the Pacific has typically been treated not as an active site of cultural production, but as a tropical backdrop for the adventures of the likes of Gauguin, Stevenson, and Melville (Lawrence, “Herman Melville,” 114).[2] Uncalculated as this scholarly exclusion may be, it cannot but reinforce the sense that modernism and modernity demand an unmodern Other, figuring Pacific peoples in binaries that the new modernist studies has worked to undermine. Yet Pacific Islanders have long been actively involved in writing their modernities, both with the oral and other narrative forms developed across generations, and with the written religious, mythical, historical, and autobiographical texts published from the nineteenth century, in Indigenous and introduced languages. By the mid-twentieth century, adapting to the modes taught through colonial education systems, more Oceanians began to write poems and short stories in English, and in the 1960s and 70s a surge of anthologies, collections, series, and little magazines turned relatively isolated literary endeavors into a movement. Literature in the decolonizing Pacific was both an outpouring of expressive traditions in a new media, and the precipitation of new traditions—what the Samoan author Albert Wendt described as “the creation of new cultures which are free of the taint of colonialism and based firmly on our own pasts.”[3] Literature became part of a decolonizing voyage of exploration, a “quest . . . for a new Oceania” (Wendt, “Towards a New Oceania,” 58).

If, as we claim here, this writing constitutes an identifiably modernist movement, the literature of the 1960s and 70s cannot be reduced to a set of stylistic commitments or strict formal concerns. It is a movement at a grassroots, sea routes level; the aesthetic movement of transnational communities separated by dramatic linguistic diversity, vastly different socioeconomic positions, and deeply varied access to education, but unified by the desire to write into being new local and regional identities. Writers whose works would dominate the literary scene were joined by contributors whose names are less well known, men and women inspired to join the currents of literature flowing through the Pacific. Their contributions vary widely in style, form, theme, and complexity, from direct transcriptions of oral legends to works of erudite allusion and intricate imagery. “Self-expression,” writes Wendt, “is a prerequisite of self-respect,” and from urban university graduates to villagers in their first writing workshops, Pacific Islanders found new ways of prioritizing self-expression in a region awash with foreign ink (Wendt, “Towards a New Oceania,” 53).

Modernism as a field has grown immeasurably over the last forty years, as scholars from postcolonial, feminist, queer, Marxist, transnational, historicist, cultural studies, and interdisciplinary backgrounds have worked to revise its borders and its terrain. With modernity understood to manifest in a variety of ways depending on location and time, modernism—imbricated in modernity—has come to be seen as multiple, fluid, and diverse. Pacific writing from the 1960s is a writing of modernity, and we argue for the value of reading it not as a modernist satellite, but as a modernism in its own right. Yet how do we grapple with the oceanic range this modernism is to include? Is every post-1960 Pacific text modernist, or just those which employ a particular style or explore a specific theme? Might the impetus to publish a book of Solomon Islands poets, who wrote for the first time in a poetry workshop, be modernist, but the poems themselves not? Can the movement as a whole be modernist even if the literary output is not always as such? Similarly, should we distinguish between the political, ideological, and aesthetic dimensions of modernism? Can a work have a modernist ideology but no identifiably modernist aesthetic characteristics, whatever these might be? Or is a work only modernist when the political/ideological elements are mobilized in and through certain aesthetic maneuvers, albeit maneuvers that will differ from context to context? Is modernism too weak to sustain any borders at all, or do certain entry requirements remain? Such questions haunt the new modernist studies, and they turn upon issues that come into new relief when posed in the Pacific context.

In Control of Our Own Canoe: The Rise of Pacific Literature

The rise of Pacific literature in English is conventionally dated to the appearance of certain key texts, such as Vincent Eri’s The Crocodile (1970), Witi Ihimaera’s short stories Pounamu, Pounamu (1972), and Albert Wendt’s Sons for the Return Home (1973). Behind these major works lay a far greater number of smaller pieces, and it was in this period that collections of Pacific literature began to appear. In 1967, C. P. Snow’s brother, Philip, had explained his exclusion of Indigenous writers from Faber’s Best Stories of the South Seas by stating that “they are not yet ready to entertain or analyse in English.”[4] He was soon proven wrong with Margaret Orbell’s Contemporary Maori Writing (1970); Ulli Beier’s Black Writing from New Guinea (1973) followed, and from there, the Pacific anthology flourished.

These early collections were edited by outsiders, who tended to emphasize the newness of the literature by setting it against the cultural traditions from which it emerged: Orbell, for instance, begins by stating that as “Maori society became less communal and traditional in nature . . . the old literary forms lost much of their significance. . . . New truths must be expressed in new forms.”[5] Indigenous writers and scholars likewise acknowledged the newness of the literature they were collecting and producing, but they were also able to trace the genealogy of this literature beyond the arrival of the colonizer, identifying connections and continuities where others saw a break. Orbell hailed the Māori writers she anthologized as “significant new voices in New Zealand literature” (Orbell, Contemporary Maori Writing, 8). Conversely, Ihimaera and D. S. Long trace the work of these writers back to oral forms that had “been in existence ever since the first man, the Maori, was created,” and observe that “[t]he Maori viewpoint has always been accessible, to Maoris that is.”[6]

This is more than a difference in perspective. When C. K. Stead wrote in his own Faber collection that “Pacific Island writers . . . are just now finding their way,” having “only begun to be published since about 1975,” he may not seem far from his Samoan adversary Wendt, who suggested in that year that “[m]ost of the literature written by Pacific Islands writers is barely three years old.”[7] Yet for Stead, this is the fruit of a colonial gift, the gift of modernity, to “Oceania, the region of romance”—hence his unabashed nostalgia for his childhood home, “full of photographs showing groups of semi-naked brown men working under the supervision of my grandfather in white suit and pith helmet”; and hence his sneering assertion that the “new culture—superior in its technology and the affluence it can create—is eagerly encouraged by the same indigenous people who deplore its destruction of their own” (Stead, South Pacific Stories, xii). For Wendt, by contrast, who with several other Pacific writers boycotted Stead’s volume, this literature is part of an Indigenous tradition: “Story-telling, oratory, and poetry, developed over hundreds of years, are highly developed and valued skills, which are now finding new expression in a written literature.”[8]

Wendt’s comment epitomizes the reclamation of ownership and agency by Indigenous scholars and writers in this period, challenging colonial and Eurocentric assumptions of Pacific belatedness or indebtedness. Nevertheless, if Indigenous writers were better equipped to recognize their older aesthetic heritages, oral and written, all would agree that there was something new and exciting on the rise—this was the very premise of the swell of anthologies, journals, and other publications appearing at this time.[9] As Marjorie Crocombe famously put it in her foreword to the 1974 Mana Annual of Creative Writing, “[t]he canoe is afloat. The flow of creativity in poetry, drama, story writing, as well as other forms of creative expression from painting to wood sculpture has expanded enormously since our society [the South Pacific Creative Arts Society] was launched two years ago.”[10]

While Pacific people had put pen to paper long before the 1960s and 70s, the singularity of this period can be distinguished in several ways.[11] The first is the sheer quantity of major works. In Aotearoa/New Zealand, the 1960s and early 70s saw, among many other publications, Hone Tuwhare’s first poetry collection, No Ordinary Sun (1964), Ihimaera’s Pounamu, Pounamu (1972) and the novel Tangi (1973), Harry Dansey’s play Te Raukura (1974), and Patricia Grace’s collection of stories Waiariki (1975). In Papua New Guinea, Albert Maori Kiki’s autobiography Kiki: Ten Thousand Years in a Lifetime (1968) was followed by Eri’s The Crocodile (1970), John Kasaipwalova’s poem Reluctant Flame (1971), Russell Soaba’s Wanpis (1977), and a number of other key texts. Wendt was an industry in himself, publishing the novels Sons for the Return Home (1973), Pouliuli (1977), and Leaves of the Banyan Tree (1979), the short story collection, Flying-Fox in a Freedom Tree (1974), and the poetry collection, Inside Us the Dead (1976). He was joined by the Tongan poet Konai Helu Thaman, with You, the Choice of My Parents (1974); by the Fijian playwright Jo Nacola, with I Native No More (1976); by the Cook Islands poet, Makiuti Tongia, with Korero (1977); and by many others.

This surge of published works was unprecedented, but just as important to the sense of a movement were the far greater number of writers contributing to the new journals, periodicals, and little magazines. Te Ao Hou was launched in 1952, and continued publishing Māori literature into the mid-1970s. Kovave was launched in Papua New Guinea in 1969, soon followed by New Guinea Writing. The University of the South Pacific student magazine, UNISPAC, launched in 1968, publishing material from its member countries. Mana began as a section in Pacific Islands Monthly in March 1973, with the first Mana Annual of Creative Writing appearing at the end of the year. Established in Fiji as an organ of the South Pacific Creative Arts Society, Mana published work from all over the Pacific, including Aotearoa, Hawai‘i, and French Polynesia. A number of smaller periodicals meanwhile arose to serve particular Pacific Island nations, often in the vernacular, including Faikava in Tonga, Moana in Samoa, Purua in the Cook Islands, and Waswe? in the Solomon Islands. Almost every major name in early Pacific literature published in these titles, including, in addition to those listed above, Rowley Habib, Epeli Hau‘ofa, Nora Vagi Brash, Subramani, Henri Hiro, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, Haunani-Kay Trask, and many more. And this outpouring, in turn, provided material for a number of anthologies and schoolbooks—Wendt’s Some Modern Poets series (1974–75), Bernard Gadd’s Pacific Voices (1977), Francis Mangubhai’s Roots/Waka/जड (1977), Vijay Mishra’s Pacific edition of Waves (1979), and Wendt’s Lali (1980)—which opened up the literature to new and wider audiences, in and outside of the Pacific.

The periodicals offered a vehicle for publication, but they also served an important social role, bringing together writers thousands of miles apart. Crocombe recalled that the establishment of Mana was encouraged by a “regular flow of letters from Albert Wendt in Samoa,” and Wendt in turn acknowledged Mana as “a major catalyst in stimulating the growth of this new literature,” pointing out that “[m]ost of us know one another personally; if we don’t, we know one another’s work well” (Crocombe, “Mana and Creative Regional Cooperation,” 6; Wendt, “Towards a New Oceania,” 59). This sense of interconnectedness and collaboration follows longstanding patterns of Pacific movement and migration. But there was a new sense of this movement as a movement, the recognition of Pacific literature as Pacific Literature. This was the decade in which critical writings began to thrive, primarily from Pacific scholars; Mana was relaunched as Mana Review in 1976, to “support the South Pacific writer with continuous dialogue.”[12] It was also the decade of the manifesto. The Indo-Fijian author and critic Subramani opened the first issue of Mana Review by quoting Snow’s recent dismissal of an Indigenous literature “not yet ready,” and declaring that “[t]he struggle for a South Pacific Literature has more or less been won” (“Editor’s Page,” 5). His claim was filled out in this issue by Wendt’s much-anthologized “Towards a New Oceania” (1976), which reclaimed Oceania for Oceanians, and explicitly linked the new literature to the drive for postcolonial independence: “This artistic renaissance is enriching our cultures further, reinforcing our identities/self respect/and pride, and taking us through a genuine decolonisation; it is also acting as a unifying force in our region” (60).

The preoccupation with ownership, kinship, and decolonization in Pacific literature both reflected and contributed to the drive towards political sovereignty at this time. In 1962 Western Samoa had achieved independence from Aotearoa/New Zealand, and gradually, across the Pacific, the flags of the old colonizing powers began to retreat.[13] But not disappear: Hawai‘i had become the fiftieth state of the United States of America in 1959; Guam remains an unincorporated and organized territory of the United States; Tokelau is still a dependent territory of Aotearoa/New Zealand; Pitcairn is the last British Overseas Territory in the Pacific; New Caledonia and French Polynesia are special collectivities of France; and West Papua is now a province of Indonesia. And so while for some this was a time to explore new postcolonial identities, for others it was a time to escalate the struggle for Indigenous rights. The Hawaiian Movement fought hard for native claims from the 1970s, the Kanak Independence movement was strong in New Caledonia in the 1980s, and in Aotearoa/New Zealand the 1967 Māori Affairs Amendment Act, which promoted greater outside interference in Māori land and a more Pākehā system of land ownership, galvanized the Māori protest movement that led to the Treaty of Waitangi Act in 1975 and the Tribunal of Waitangi in 1985.

Discourses of national identity resounded in this period, strengthened by emerging forms of regional solidarity. In 1947 the colonial powers had established the South Pacific Commission, but Pacific Islanders were not officially represented, and the South Pacific Conference—a triennial meeting of Pacific Island leaders, founded in 1950—had no power to influence the decisions of the Commission. By the mid-1960s Pacific Island leaders began to assert their authority, and at a United Nations General Assembly meeting held in 1970, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara could laud the smooth path to independence achieved by Fiji, Samoa, the Cook Islands, Nauru, and Tonga. This path, he said, was simply the “Pacific Way,” a term that soon came to denote the political and cultural connections of the Pacific Islands, predicated on regional concepts of tolerance and understanding. The Pacific Way, felt by some to be overly Polynesian, was joined by the “Melanesian Way”—a term popularized by Bernard Narokobi in a series of rousing, polemical articles published in Papua New Guinea’s Post-Courier between 1976 and 1978—which Narokobi saw as the means to a new Melanesian pride in culture and diversity, “[n]ow that we are in control of our own canoe.”[14]

Rebirth was everywhere, even in communities where autonomy was restricted. The Hawaiian Renaissance of the 1960s and 70s, embodied in John Dominis Holt’s essay, “On Being Hawaiian” (1964), found popular expression on the radio; KCCN began to broadcast traditional and contemporary Hawaiian music in 1966, while DJs discussed community issues in pidgin.[15] On the front page of the Honolulu Advertiser for March 24, 1977, George Kanahele described the renaissance as “the most significant chapter in [Hawai‘i’s] modern history since the overthrow of the monarchy and loss of nationhood in 1893.”[16]

Activism and mobilization were propelled by the growing educational possibilities across the region. Although most Pacific Island nations had teacher training colleges, prior to the 1960s the number of university graduates from the region outside of Aotearoa/New Zealand and Hawai‘i was extremely low.[17] By the mid-1970s these numbers had increased dramatically, with the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) opening its doors in 1966, and the University of the South Pacific (USP) in 1968. These large institutions dominate narratives about education in the Pacific Islands, but degrees were also offered by the Pacific Theological College (1966), the University of Guam (1952 as the Territorial College of Guam, 1965 as a degree-granting institution), ‘Atensi University (1975), and the National University of Samoa (1984), with Community Colleges and Institutes of Technology swelling regional educational possibilities. The administrations of these tertiary institutions might not always have prioritized the decolonization of curricula, but their lecture rooms, fale, and public spaces facilitated engagement with the political questions of the day: independence, Western interference and aid, regional unity, traditional cultures, changing social structures, and urbanization.

The negotiation between the old and the new was a source of repeated debate, exemplified by the questioning of gender roles. USP’s student magazine ran special issues on feminism, and UPNG held debates on the position of women in the postcolonial era. The year 1975 saw the first Pacific Women’s Conference, and women continued to organize and debate, looking at issues of pay, violence, health, politics, and the greater cultural weight imposed on women in times of change, under which they were frequently required to maintain their customary roles with less flexibility than men: “We shall not allow aid to divide women from men, forcing women to remain as in the picture postcards of the Pacific Islands while men are trained to enter the modern technological world.”[18]

The period also saw a marked change in the islands’ urban scenes. With independence came an expansion of government activity and investment, and an increase in employment opportunities for educated workers from the region, particularly in the civil service, contributed to the rapid growth of towns and cities.[19] While rural depopulation had begun prior to independence, until the mid-1970s the urban space remained strongly colonial, and in many cities a form of urban apartheid was in operation.[20] As the colonial system crumbled, Pacific people reclaimed the urban centers, shaping them into what John Connell and John Lea have described as “crucibles of nationhood” (Urbanisation, 35). Capital cities grew especially quickly; the population of Apia doubled between 1951 and 1971, as did Honiara’s between 1976 and 1986, and by the mid-1970s Suva was four times bigger than Lautoka, the next biggest Fijian city (36). While urbanization increased access to education, employment, social spaces, and the arts, it also created problems with land ownership, informal settlements, sanitation, and poverty. Gangs and crime increased, and in 1975, on the eve of Papua New Guinean independence, the first prime minister asked: “Do we really want to become a country of big cities? In all the 700 languages of our country we have never needed words for slum, for unemployment, for air pollution. Do we really wish to build the kind of country that needs these words?”[21]

Technology, transport, and communication also underwent massive changes at this time. From 1965, Pacific nations began to acquire shares in Fiji Airways, renaming it Air Pacific in 1971 to reflect its new (and short-lived) regional status. Between 1969 and 1985, Polynesian Airlines, Air Nauru, Air Niugini, Air Tungaru, Air Vanuatu, and Royal Tongan Airlines began commercial flights. In 1976 there were fifteen daily newspapers across the island nations, published in English or French.[22] The movies were familiar to many: by 1979 there were sixty-nine fixed cinemas in the Pacific region (not including Australia or Aotearoa/New Zealand), with thirty-seven in Fiji alone.[23] Hawai‘i and Guam acquired television in the mid-1950s; New Caledonia, Tahiti, American Samoa, and, indirectly, Western Samoa, in the mid-1960s; Saipan and Rapa Nui in the 1970s (Richstad and McMillan, “Mass Communications,” 216). Many new governments were reluctant to prioritize national television, and were concerned about the cultural effects of foreign programs, but the craze for video tapes rendered any contrived isolation and protection impossible. Fijian residents, for example, had no national television until 1994, but the VCR had flourished since its arrival in 1978. In 1981, there were 7,000 sets in Fiji; three years later, that figure had risen to an estimated 20,000.[24]

This was clearly a period of intense technological advancement, but also one of vast disparities. In 1972, Fiji had satellite technology but few sealed roads, while in 1974, the Cook Islands had an international airport but no national radio station. A 1976 study of villagers attending markets in Port Moresby, Rabaul, and Goroka found that about half had never read a newspaper, a third had never been to the cinema, and a quarter had never listened to the radio.[25] These complexities and inequalities thwart any attempt to impose a definite end date on the period that we might describe as the age of anticolonial modernity. It is also true that many of the markers of this modernity—growth in technology, communication, commerce, and so on—can be identified well before the 1960s. Yet it is in the second half of the twentieth century that we see these elements coming together to such an unprecedented degree, and it is in this period that we find sustained and interconnected narratives of political change. If we are to seek an end to this chapter of Pacific Island history, we might look to the first Fiji coup in 1987 and the Bougainville Civil War in 1988, which in their different ways ruptured the sense of optimism in the period here described. As Subramani put it in a 1988 keynote address, “[t]he Pacific of the late 1980s is not the Pacific of the 1970s. Recent events in the region have profoundly altered our perception of reality.”[26]

These years also saw a sea change in the literary scene. By 1987 the general enthusiasm of the “first wave” was waning, causing Raymond Pillai to ask, “why have we come to a creaking halt? . . . How can we restore the former energy and vitality?”[27] Many of the major names were still writing, but their style and tone had altered. There seems little question, for example, that Wendt’s novels Ola (1991) and Black Rainbow (1992) introduce a distinct period in his oeuvre, with his experiments in form and genre drawing some criticism in the region, as they were seen by some as a capitulation to fashionable global trends such as postmodernism.[28] The foundation of the Niu Waves Collective in 1995 signaled a changing of the guard; Sia Figiel captured the moment with her award-winning novel Where We Once Belonged (1996); a year later the Pacific Writing Forum and the Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies were established at USP. Many of the old struggles remained, but, in general, writers were no longer pressed to define or defend their creation of a Pacific literature, and could build upon an established and recognized literary tradition.

A Hybrid, or a New Development? Indigenous Modernisms

Around the time Subramani was reflecting upon the shift towards a new stage in Pacific modernity, scholars outside of the region were questioning the received understanding of when and where modernism was supposed to have taken place. In 1987, Raymond Williams suggested that the conventional periodization of modernism presents a “highly selected version of the modern which then offers to appropriate the whole of modernity.”[29] Although the counter-examples he chooses are European, Williams’s call for an “alternative tradition taken from the neglected works left in the wide margin of the century” has been taken up repeatedly in the decades since, and non-Western modernisms, previously rejected as “epistemologically impossible,” “lamentable mimicry,” or the “contamination of a more genuine local culture,” have come to be seen as viable, important modernist traditions.[30]

However, this reorientation has been slow to recognize Indigenous movements. Kirby Brown, a scholar of Native American literature, argues that despite the great changes to the discipline, the “New Modernist Studies has an ‘Indian problem,’” since very few studies of American Indian writers have been conducted within modernist studies, and Indigenous writers remain conspicuously absent from contemporary books on American modernism.[31]  As has also been the case with the Pacific, “popular attitudes and shifting critical tastes locked Indianness in a remote past of primitive ‘authenticity,’ which rendered American Indian modernity epistemologically inconceivable” (Brown, “American Indian Modernities,” 298). Yet American Indian writers produced a large body of work between 1890 and 1940, and “not only survived the onslaught that settler modernity wrought on their communities and nations but actively negotiated, if not openly embraced, the circumstances, technologies, and expressive forms of modernity” as a way to place their own marks “on an increasingly complicated, rapidly changing, thoroughly modern world” (297).

Part of the redress of colonial representations is a more nuanced understanding of authenticity and influence. Jahan Ramazani has explored the ways in which poets such as Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite, Wole Soyinka, and A. K. Ramanujan subverted and indigenized “modernism as a tool of liberation. These postcolonial poets . . . leveraged modernism against British Romantic, Victorian, and other imperial norms calcified in their local educational and cultural establishments.”[32] For Ramazani, canonical modernism’s rejection of Victorian and Edwardian aesthetics was redeployed by transnational writers to subvert all Western value systems. Similarly, European modernism’s ambivalent relationship with modernity provided channels through which postcolonial authors could steer their equivocal responses to a modernity often perceived as foreign and imposed. This rendered them neither belated nor derivative, but, like all artists, creatively active in the process of inspiration and adaptation.

In an introduction to a collection by the Nigerian poet and playwright John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo, Abiola Irele argues that through modernism the writer was able to inaugurate “a new kind of Nigerian poetry in English.”[33] Against instrumentalist approaches to the imposed language in Nigerian literature, Clark-Bekederemo adapted the “new poetic of modernism” to make English “conform to the requirements of an expression centered upon our milieu and experience” (Irele, Collected Plays, xxii). Simon Gikandi finds comparable processes at work across Africa, the Caribbean, and India, arguing that early postcolonial writing is “dominated and defined by writers whose political or cultural projects were enabled by modernism even when the ideologies of the latter, as was the case with Eliot, were at odds with the project of decolonization.”[34]

Similarly, Damian Skinner has argued that “Māori Modernists” of the 1950s and 1960s drew upon European modernism, particularly the work of the primitivists, by appropriating and adapting their hybridized techniques to explore their own experiences of modernity. Interested in “rupture and discontinuity” rather than the symmetry and continuity associated with whakapapa (genealogy), they found the techniques of European modernist art to be a provocative and empowering resource.[35] As Skinner puts it, these “indigenous appropriations of modernist artistic strategies can be viewed as tactics of liberation,” resisting limiting conceptions of what Māori art and identity could mean, both within and outside the Indigenous community (“Indigenous Primitivists,” 67). These are tactics that Wendt identifies in the broader Pacific context when he observes that “[w]e have indigenised much that was colonial or foreign to suit ourselves, creating new forms and blends. We have even indigenised Western art forms, including the novel.”[36]

A claim as strong as Gikandi’s—“modernism, having freed the European subject from the tutelage of tradition, also opened the space in which the other could become a self-reflective subject”—might imply an intellectual debt that gives credit to the colonizers for decolonization (“Modernism in the World,” 423). But noting points of interconnection and adaptation need not place Oceanian writers in a passive position, and should instead reveal their agency in an ongoing process of transformation. The modernist tools that these postcolonial writers refined were themselves the result of intense cultural fusion, and when they were taken up in Africa or the Pacific, they were changed again. As Wendt asks pointedly in “Tatauing the Post-Colonial Body,” “When Picasso developed cubism from African art and other influences was cubism called a hybrid, or a new development?”[37] Modernism has from the start been a newness of blends and borrowings, a radically innovative act of hybridization. If earlier modernists and modernist scholars were unable to see the extent to which this hybridization compromised the delusion of cultural originality, that is only because they could not conceive of a modernity seated anywhere but with themselves, or of the world beyond as anything other than the unmodern object of artistic creation.

We find these acts of revision and redeployment throughout the work of the Oceanian modernists. To take one example, the Fijian poet Pio Manoa’s “Under Nabukalou Bridge” (1976) quietly localizes modernity and modernist prosody, both drawing upon and relativizing European and Anglo-American poetics. Employing free verse with irregular syllabics, limited punctuation but measured assonance and alliteration, Manoa’s stanzas are short and imagistic. A parenthetical aside makes reference to Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, and T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land haunts the text. Yet Manoa’s urban space is less ruined than Eliot’s: the hordes of people on this Suva bridge are alive and leisurely, and Manoa’s old man, quietly fishing below, may be insulted by questing youth, but he is no Fisher King.

Manoa’s fisherman is a figure of endurance and calm, unperturbed by crowds and the challenges of modernity: when a young man steps insolently over him, viewing him (again with echoes of Eliot) as the “Butt-end of a life / Burning still and dreaming backward,” the old man remains tranquil. [38] The contrasts between the busy city above and the quiet creek below at first seem to present the familiar opposition between tradition and modernity, but when the speaker, “audience to his / Silence,” calls in the final stanza on the reader to “Touch this image of Time,” we recognize that the old man is not tradition, but time itself—not the old ways providing stable foundation to the modernity above, but the unwavering temporal space in which the present occurs (Manoa, “Under Nabukalou Bridge,” 19). Through the old man, modernity, full of noise and haste, is positioned within a longer continuum, and thereby rendered relative, transient, and finite. Under Nabukalou Bridge, on which the present rushes past, is time itself, dreaming, patient, and absorbed.

Having desacralized modernity as merely a moment in time, the poem’s engagement with Anglo-American modernism becomes a conversation with fleeting modern sources, a speaking with transitory figures on the bridge, rather than a dependency on the permanence of grand, international poetic forms and names for legitimacy. Free from the anxiety of influence, Manoa can converse as among equals. “Under Nabukalou Bridge” is unambiguously a product of modernity, a modernity located precisely in Suva, from which Manoa connects with modernists across years and miles. And yet this modernity is understood to be contingent and fleeting, a modernity which too shall pass, while the fisherman remains.

Yet if Oceanian writers drew upon European and Anglo-American modernists, they also—like these modernists themselves—questioned, subverted, and adapted all manner of inheritances: the Victorian literary realism that was a canonical part of the region’s colonial education system; Latin American, Caribbean, and African modernisms; Western and Bollywood film; music from across the world; radio programs and television; the rich oral and other expressive traditions of the Pacific, such as weaving, pottery, dance, and tattooing; the Indian literary and mythical heritage brought to the region, often forcibly, through the indentured labor system. Subramani has described his early reading of books thrown away by European families in the sugar plantations of northern Fiji, itself a striking image of the appropriations and adaptations of a global modernity.[39] He traces his peculiar literary sensibility not only to the interaction between the texts he found and, say, oral Fijian talanoa, although he cites these important forms, but also to the cultural reworking of ancient and contemporary Indian traditions brought to Fiji and transformed in the experience of indentured life, from Vedic recital and debate in mandali meetings to contemporary Hindi romance.[40]

Wendt, meanwhile, identifies his aesthetic foundation as the Samoan fāgogo, an oral form that he knew at a young age from his grandmother Mele. He elsewhere acknowledges the formative experience of his encounter with modernist writers while schooling in Aotearoa/New Zealand in the 1950s, referring specifically to James Joyce, Albert Camus, W. B. Yeats, Virginia Woolf, W. H. Auden, and Eliot.[41] From a conventional critical perspective that offsets modernist artifice against Indigenous or traditional art forms, this would fix the fāgogo as an enclosed and essentially local practice. Yet in Wendt’s account, the fāgogo was already fully transnational, interweaving Samoan folklore with his grandmother’s improvised translations of Aesop, Grimm, and the Bible. These texts are themselves all translations, or translations of translations, and as Wendt tells it, Mele’s versions were improvements on the “originals.”[42] This is not a passive imitation, nor even a local adaptation of a foreign form; it is a continual reworking of the already reworked.

The relevance of these acts of appropriation and adaptation in the context of modernist studies can be seen in Laura Doyle’s mapping of relations between “canonical” and “alternative” modernisms. Doyle argues that if modernism seems to appeal to many postcolonial writers, it is because they “recognise and mean to signal the way that ‘their own’ history lies at the back of canonically modernist aesthetics.”[43] Thus, for example, decentered narrative form is not, or not only, the purview of a detached aesthetic experimentalism, but a response to a world history of displacement and oppression that “juxtaposes the discrepancies of here and there, us and them, margin and center, but also, and more precisely, war zone and safe zone, poor and rich, settled and uprooted” (Doyle, “Geomodernism,” 135). At the core of modernity and modernism in Europe and North America are the inequalities that enabled it, and canonical modernism’s aesthetic techniques perform, often unknowingly, the entanglements and fragmentations of these imbalances. Colonial and postcolonial writers move with facility between perspectives and horizons because they live between multiple and incommensurate narratives of their lives and situations. Of course, there are many ways in which the destabilization and alienation of colonization might be aesthetically represented. But if the form often associated with European and North American modernism is apposite for many transnational modernists, that is because it evokes the tensions and inconsistencies of the world in which colonized and oppressed peoples have lived.

It is no surprise, then, that Wendt moves between the postcolonial and the modernist in his reflection upon the type of writing that Oceanian writers have produced. In Nuanua, he notes that the conditions of Pacific modernity have placed Pacific writers in intimate relation with other anticolonial writers: “V. S. Naipaul, George Lamming, Derek Walcott, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Bessie Head, Ngugi wa Thiongo, and Kwei Armah” (Wendt, Nuanua, 4).[44] Wendt continually holds the imperial project to account for its depredations upon Pacific ways of life, and arraigns colonial missionaries, traders, and educators for their suppression of Pacific forms of artistic expression. And yet, writing in Lali, he underscores the unforeseen result of this lamentable history, arguing that the ruptures of colonialism brought about a new type of art and, importantly, a new type of artist: one

not bound by traditional styles and attitudes and conventions, who explores his craft individually, experiments freely and expresses his own values and ideas, his own mana unfettered by accepted conventions; an artist who casts himself adrift in the Void and plots his course by discovering and developing his own vision, voice, and style. (Wendt, Lali, xv–xvi)

For Wendt this new artist gives voice to the specifically postcolonial conditions of Oceanian modernity—in a style, form, and approach expressly perceived in modernist terms. Looking back on the tone and themes of early Pacific literature, he finds that it presented “the colonial and the indigenous as in irreconcilable opposition” (Wendt, Nuanua, 4). Although this binary, he argues, may be preserved in the plot points or ideological underpinnings of Pacific literature, it is undermined by the form that much of this literature takes. This literature, Wendt writes, is both modernist and realist, with much of its fiction engaging with

political and social commitment, with a heavily tragic, pessimistic vision of our times; it shows the other features of modernism too: deliberate ambiguity and complexity, irony, unified structures and characterisation, the search for originality and uniqueness, and the concealment of artifice in the hope of transcending time and place. You can read Eliot, Yeats, Pound, Forster, Auden, Woolf, Faulkner, Hemingway, Wright, Ellison, Lessing and others in that Literature. (Wendt, Nuanua, 4)

Here, most explicitly, we see the relevance of the modernist framework for a discussion of Pacific literature. Wendt captures the modernism of Williams, the modernism of Gikandi, and the modernism of Doyle; a modernism linked to the canonical modernisms of Europe and North America, and to the postcolonial modernisms of Africa, India, and the Caribbean. A modernism that is in the end, like all modernisms, deeply hybrid and singularly situated.

Modernist Intrusions

Granted, then, the grounds for thinking about modernism and Pacific literature collectively, this engagement can proceed under two main claims. The stronger calls for the recognition of “Oceanian Modernism,” that is, a new field that recognizes Oceanian literature, art, film, and theater as a modernism. The more cautious claim accepts that modernist studies sheds new light on Pacific literature and art, but is wary of subsuming Oceania into a discipline long associated with European and North American aesthetics. Both claims have parallels in other postcolonial and Indigenous contexts. In his introduction to a recent special issue of Texas Studies in Literature and Language, James H. Cox embraces “the proliferation of modernisms, especially those . . . that account for Indigenous literary production and indigeneity beyond primitivist representations.”[45] Yet he notes that they chose not to call the special issue “Native American Modernism” or “Indigenous Modernism,” but “Modernism and Native America,” arguing that the conjunction leaves the terms “in productive tension and resists the implication that designating Native American literary productions as modernist amplifies their literary value” (Cox, “Modernism and Native America,” 270). The point is well taken, especially since modernist studies enjoys presently a critical prestige that may be alienating to other fields. On the other hand, “Modernism and Oceania” presupposes two separate sites of production, thus retaining even as it seeks to resist the idea of a monolithic modernism that is geographically, temporally, and culturally bounded, something that happened outside of Oceania, and not also and essentially from within.

In other words, the cautious approach risks calcifying modernism in its old forms. The more productive, perhaps more difficult claim, is one that requires a genuine re-visioning. That is, it necessitates understanding “modernism” as “global modernism,” and taking the term in its broadest sense as a marker for a literature relating to the modern. It means being, as Eric Hayot and Rebecca Walkowitz write, a little less clever, no longer “knowing” that when war is mentioned in modernist circles it means the Great War, or that alienation manifests in a specific aesthetic form, or that transportation means the train, and technology the X-ray. It is not a case of knowing “how a ‘nonglobal’ term becomes global,” but realizing that “the global was there (in modernism, everywhere) all along.”[46] Perhaps the implications of this broadened scope become clearer if we understand “modernism” as operating less like the period-based marker “Victorian,” and more like the disciplinary marker “postcolonial.” As a critical practice, “postcolonial” is used to designate texts, or readings of texts, that critique colonial legacies and reveal their discursive and ideological distortions. It takes as given that imperialism manifested differently across the world, but in retaining the broad term enables productive conversations about the colonial project across national lines. In its ideal sense, “modernism” could operate in a similar fashion, as a term that allows for the transnational connections of a global modernity, while also encouraging localized readings of the specific but intertwined ways in which particular regions forged their own modernities.

This modernism is less didactic, more speculative, more open. If from one angle modernist studies appears to be a totalizing discourse that seeks to subsume other texts and traditions, from another it is the sum of their parts, reshaped by every iteration, more a receptacle than a rule. And so modernism becomes increasingly less Eurocentric, and more contextual and contingent; a weak discipline that, as Wai Chee Dimock puts it, “does not aspire to full occupancy in the analytic field, that settles for a low threshold in plausibility and admissibility . . . that does not even try to clinch the case.”[47] The current, weak state of modernism, with soft borders and provisional disciplinary characteristics, leads to plurality, to modernisms, in which different texts, authors, and periods exist in shifting, partial relationship with each other. “Modernism” along these lines is a loose category that encourages a range of varied connections, bound simply by the idea of a response to modernity, itself an indeterminate and open category. To borrow Jessica Berman’s words, this modernism is “a dynamic set of relationships, practices, problematics, and cultural engagements with modernity rather than a static canon of works, a given set of formal devices, or a specific range of beliefs.”[48] There is in the term, as Paul K. Saint-Amour notes, a certain tautology: “modernism: that which exhibits traits that have been called modernist.”[49] This tautology has the advantage of stating its position and no more; and so, “Oceanian modernism: that Oceanian art which exhibits traits that are, exploratively, being called modernist.”

Acknowledging the weakness of the term, it becomes easier to negotiate differences within and beyond it, and we return to the questions with which we began. Is every post-1960 text modernist? Is a magazine modernist even if some of its content seems otherwise? Can the movement as a whole be modernist even if the literary output is not always as such? The relevance of these questions can be seen when we turn to the pages of the early Mana annuals. Of the wealth of little magazines that arose during this period, Mana was the most enduring and the most influential. Its pages contain poetry, short stories, art, interviews, critical essays, and reports, and present a microcosm of the Oceanian literary scene, in all its variety. The 1974 Mana Annual of Creative Writing, for instance, contains nearly a hundred contributions, from myths and legends to psychological short stories, transcribed songs to free verse poems. The annual presents diverse, contemporary voices whose chorus is more than a collection of voices, contrapuntal and polyphonic. For example, Earnest Mararunga’s “The Load of Fire Wood” appears, in itself, to be a relatively simple story of village life and colonial education in Papua New Guinea. In the pages of Mana, however, it is repeatedly interrupted, first by Seri’s short poem “B-block,” in which inmates of Fiji’s Naboro prison sing of returning to “the ancient way,” in a modern lexicon where “cops, judges, prosecutors must pay” (1974 Mana Annual, 52). Mararunga’s story resumes, only to be intruded upon twice more by Satendra Nandan’s longer poem, “My Father’s Son.” Formally conversant with The Waste Land, down to the “shantih, shantih, shantih” that closes section V, this work sees traditional Indian funeral rites conducted with the oxymoronic “pure Australian ghee” in a Fijian crematorium next to Nadi’s international airport (54).

There is thematic consonance between these texts, as they share the difficult negotiations between traditional practices and modern settings. Formally, however, they could not be more dissonant, and their disparities are accentuated by their spatial juxtaposition on the page. Berman associates modernism with a writing in which “gaps in narrative consistency can signal moments of alternate logic and where defamiliarization works on several levels at once” (Modernist Commitments, 3). Berman’s insight applies not only to the individual text but to the pages of the little magazine as a whole; while a single piece might espouse simple stylistic regularity, collectively the works in Mana combine into an interrupted, irregular text, one that presents a complex, involved picture of Oceanian modernity.

But is Mana thereby “more modernist” than “The Load of Fire Wood”? And is the latter modernist only in the pages of Mana? As tempting as such comparative, evaluative questions are, they ultimately miss the point. These problems are immediate only when modernism is haunted by the sense of a specific aesthetic practice, or when it remains in effect a value judgement: a work is modernist when it is challenging, experimental, radical—that is, when it is “good.” They become less so if we relax our gaze and realize that it is not a question of whether or not certain texts “do modernism” better than others, but of what is to be gained by putting different explorations of modernity into conversation with each other. Mana, and “The Load of Fire Wood” as presented within its pages, can be readily examined in conjunction with Rhythm or Poetry or The Little Review. When read alone, “The Load of Fire Wood” might sit uneasily with short stories from Dubliners or In a German Pension, but it remains an important product of a burgeoning modernity, an examination of local life, a commentary on colonial education, and a retooling of literary realism in line with the writings of many postcolonial modernities. Both Mana and “The Load of Fire Wood” have a place within modernist studies, and can be read as modernism when it is productive to do so.

This reading requires us to be simultaneously smarter and less clever—noting connections that might not be immediately visible, deprioritizing forms and techniques we have been trained see. Thus, staying with Mana, Leonard Garae’s “Beware, the Worst is still to Come!” might be dismissed as “unmodern,” being a transcription of an oral legend. Indeed, despite Subramani’s warning in South Pacific Literature: From Myth to Fabulation (1985) against the “popular misconception that oral literature . . . lacks complexity,” this pioneering critical account nevertheless assumes that oral techniques and traditions serve less as the ground of the new Pacific literature than a stage to be outgrown, “a beginning, as material that could be translated or rewritten.”[50] Yet Garae’s tale—like many other orally driven texts in the first wave of Pacific literature in English—is more than a conventional recounting of a local legend, and the narrator subtly interrupts its “authenticity” with a range of narrative devices. “Beware” is framed by first-person commentary by the narrator; at the start by a note on oral transmission, and at the end by evidence of the truth of the supernatural myth. Tensions between the written and the oral remain throughout the text, as it shifts between the cues and conventions of oral storytelling (“Every day it happened that”; “It is said that”; “I wonder”), figurative devices more literary in tone (“On stormy nights when a dark veil of clouds swept in over the valley and the wind tore through the coconut leaves like angry waves through a fisherman’s net”), and unusual metaphors and epithets that might be direct translations from the Ambae, or might be new phrases, coined, perhaps, in the creative writing workshops and classes where much of the early Mana material was written (“the leading freedom-dreamer”).[51]

Although the text makes no overt commentary on the contrasts wrought by modernity, its framing paragraphs quietly establish the change from the time of the story to the present. Across two hundred years, the site of a blood-soaked massacre becomes a modern school, the supernatural myth is “proved” by the discovery of bones and artefacts when a new well is dug, and the text itself changes from an oral story in Ambae to a writerly tale in English. Even the seemingly straightforward retelling thus demonstrates complicated negotiations of form and context. Again, we see Berman’s sense of narrative inconsistency in a complex form, and, contra Subramani, a self-conscious process that enacts and encapsulates the taking control of narrative that is at the heart of postcolonial resistance. If this taking control in many cases involves staging the transformation of oral narratives into written forms, this too is just a part of the broader anticolonial process, through which seemingly incommensurable discourses are brought head-on, and worked out and worked through in the creation of new forms. In this respect, even the simplest retellings of the Mana Annual are experimental, and of a piece with the formally more knowing works of, say, Vanessa Griffen, Wendt, or Subramani.

Which brings us again to the difficult question of value—not now of the text, but to the text, and the people whose lives have gone into its production. Arguing against modernism’s traditional timeframe, Susan Stanford Friedman writes:

Modernist Studies Association’s end date for modernism has an even more pernicious effect on modernisms outside the West. This periodization cuts off the agencies of writers, artists, philosophers, and other cultural producers in the emergent postcolonial world just as their new modernities are being formed.[52]

Friedman’s interventions have been of great importance within modernist studies, and perhaps we approach this specific point with less grace than it deserves. But while her claim was expedient in unsettling the institution, we must resist the implication that it is only through modernism, and specifically the Modernist Studies Association’s brand of modernism, that writers of modernity can find outlet and self-expression. Modernism, even in its incarnation as the “new modernist studies,” may have an Indigenous, ethnic, and geopolitical problem, as it continues to marginalize writers invested in alternative representations of modernity. But does a Tongan poet or a Samoan playwright experience a real reduction in agency because the Modernist Studies Association is unaware of their work? There is value in reading the creative works of Oceania as modernist, or through the lens of modernist studies, not least because it brings this work to wider audiences. Nevertheless, we must also acknowledge that the greatest benefit of the new modernist studies may not be to Pacific, or African, or Indian writers, but to modernist studies itself. Much is made of the fact that transnational or postcolonial modernisms serve to save modernism from its blind Eurocentrism—take, for example, Anouk Lang, who sees the inclusion of Pacific texts in the modernist canon as “defamiliaris[ing] the category of modernism itself, in order to observe where its European and American biases have excluded particular textual and cultural possibilities, and to aim for a richer, more complicated, and more conflicted vision of it as a movement.”[53] But modernism will only have become truly global and decolonized when its conferences really do enable conversation beyond the traditional scope, its lectureships employ a truly diverse group of scholars, and it acts as a genuinely transnational structure, vocabulary, and discourse through which academics can converse without prejudice.

Although the vocabulary and structure of a disciplinary field can change, the history of a discipline cannot be erased, and modernism, even Oceanian modernism, is not specifically an Indigenous theory, methodology, or epistemology. This article cannot and does not seek to deprioritize the importance of readings and approaches born of the Pacific and in intimate relation to the Pacific. What it offers is a way to navigate the complex lines of transnational interrelation and connection that Oceania has drawn into the construction of a modern literature. It provides a framework through which to move between the local and the global—a framework that is aphoristic, archipelagic, and moves fluidly between scales.

Understanding modernism as a series of trade routes and connections, or, in Friedman’s terms, as clusters, provides a way of mapping relation and difference through “mobile, interlocking, yet distinctive modernisms,” and here we are in accord.[54] The value of modernism, in its new, expansive context, is precisely its expansiveness: it is a framework that aids the mapping of transnational thought and movement, and one that works no longer in terms of the stability and power of continents, but, most appropriately for the Pacific, in terms of archipelagos—a sea of islands in which different texts relate in different, shifting ways.[55] Oceanian modernism brings together the fluid patterns of the local, national, regional and international, and looks specifically at the question of “being modern,” with all its geopolitical implications and confusions. There are, of course, many other ways to explore this literature, and many other ways to reflect on the conditions of and responses to modernity. But reading Oceanian creative outputs in modernist terms offers, we claim, a useful critical perspective, a turn of the kaleidoscope revealing new and compelling patterns.


[1] D. H. Lawrence, “Herman Melville’s Typee and Omoo,” in Selected Critical Writings, ed. Michael Herbert (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 115.

[2] Recent discussions of Pacific-modernist connections include The Modernist World, ed. Stephen Ross and Allana C. Lindgren (New York: Routledge, 2015); The Novel in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the South Pacific since 1950, ed. Coral Ann Howells, Paul Sharrad, and Gerry Turcotte (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017); Peter Brunt, “Falling into the World: The Global Artworld of Aloi Pilioko and Nicolai Michoutouchkine,” in Mapping Modernisms: Art, Indigeneity, Colonialism, ed. Elizabeth Harney and Ruth Phillips (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018); New Oceania: Modernisms and Modernities in the Pacific, ed. Matthew Hayward and Maebh Long (London: Routledge, 2019); and “Modernisms: Aotearoa New Zealand-Australia-Fiji, 1926–1986,” ed. Erin G. Carlston, Matthew Hayward, and Brian M. Reed, special issue, Modernist Cultures 15, no. 3 (2020).

[3] Albert Wendt, “Towards a New Oceania,” Mana Review: A South Pacific Journal of Language and Literature 1, no. 1 (1976): 49–60, 58.

[4] Best Stories of the South Seas, ed. Philip A. Snow (London: Faber, 1967), 11.

[5] Contemporary Maori Writing, ed. Margaret Orbell (Wellington, NZ: Reed, 1970), 7. See also Black Writing from New Guinea, ed. Ulli Beier (Queensland, AU: University of Queensland Press, 1973), xii, xiv.

[6] Into the World of Light: An Anthology of Maori Writing, ed. Witi Ihimaera and D. S. Long (Auckland, NZ: Heinemann, 1982), 2.

[7] The Faber Book of Contemporary South Pacific Stories, ed. C. K. Stead (London: Faber and Faber, 1994), x; Some Modern Poetry from the New Hebrides, ed. Albert Wendt (Suva, FJ: Mana Publications, 1975), n. p.

[8] Lali: A Pacific Anthology, ed. Albert Wendt (Auckland, NZ: Longman Paul, 1980), xvi.

[9] See Marjorie Crocombe, “Mana and Creative Regional Cooperation,” in Third Mana Annual of Creative Writing (Suva, FJ: Mana Publications, 1977), 5–6; Ihimaera and Long, Into the World of Light, 3, 4; Julian Maka‘a and Stephen Oxenham, “The Voice in the Shadow: A Survey of Writing in Solomon Islands,” Pacific Moana Quarterly 9, no. 1 (1985): 5–13, 6; Sam Alasia, preface to Mana 13, no. 1 (2001): 7; Vijay C. Mishra, “Indo-Fijian Fiction and the Girmit Ideology,” in The Indo-Fijian Experience, ed. Subramani (Queensland, AU: University of Queensland Press, 1979), 172–73.

[10] Marjorie Crocombe, “Introducing Mana 1974,” in The Mana Annual of Creative Writing (Suva, FJ: South Pacific Creative Arts Society, 1974), 1.

[11] Alice Te Punga Somerville’s Marsden-funded project, “Writing the New World: Indigenous Texts 1900–1975,” uncovers Indigenous writing from the Pacific that predates the 1960s “first wave.”

[12] Subramani, “Editor’s Page,” Mana Review: A South Pacific Journal of Language and Literature 1, no. 1 (1976): 5.

[13] Nauru (1968), Fiji (1970), Tonga (which shed its official position of “protected state” by the United Kingdom in 1970), Papua New Guinea (1975), the Solomon Islands (1978), Tuvalu (1978), Kiribati (1979), Vanuatu (1980). In 1986 the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia became independent, followed by Palau in 1994, all under compact of free association with the United States. The Cook Islands and Niue retain citizenship links with New Zealand, but became states in free association in 1965 and 1977 respectively, with the Cook Islands recognized as a state under international law by the United Nations in 1992, and Niue in 1994.

[14] Bernard Narokobi, The Melanesian Way (Port Moresby: Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies and the Institute of Pacific Studies, 1983), 24.

[15] Elizabeth B. Buck, “KCCN: Hawaiian Radio,” Pacific Islands Communication Journal 12, no. 2 (1983): 166.

[16] Quoted in George H. Lewis, “Da Kine Sounds: The Function of Music as Social Protest in the New Hawaiian Renaissance,” American Music 2, no. 2 (1984): 38–52, 41.

[17] Ron Crocombe and Malama Meleisea, “Achievements, Problems and Prospects: The Future of University Education in the South Pacific,” in Pacific Universities: Achievements, Problems, Prospects, ed. Ron Crocombe and Malama Meleisea (Suva, FJ: Institute of Pacific Studies, 1988), 342.

[18] Report of ESCAP Sub-regional Meeting for Pacific Women, quoted in Vanessa Griffen, “The Pacific Islands: All It Requires Is Ourselves,” in Sisterhood is Global: The International Women’s Movement Anthology, ed. Robin Morgan (New York: The Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1984), 521.

[19] John Connell, “Elephants in the Pacific? Pacific Urbanisation and its Discontents,” Asia Pacific Viewpoint 52, no. 2 (2011): 121–35, 122.

[20] John Connell and John Lea, Urbanisation in the Island Pacific: Towards Sustainable Development (London: Routledge, 2002), 33.

[21] Michael Somare, “New Goals for Papua New Guinea,” Pacific Perspectives 2 (1973): 1.

[22] Jim Richstad and Michael McMillan, “Pacific Islands Mass Communications: Selected Information Sources,” Journal of Broadcasting 21, no. 2 (1977): 215–33, 216–19; Miles M. Jackson, “Distance Learning and Libraries in the Pacific,” Pacific Islands Communication Journal 12, no. 1 (1983): 96–106, 98.

[23] Floyd D. Takeuchi, The Status of Commercial Cinema in the Pacific Islands (Honolulu: Pacific Islands Studies Program, University of Hawai‘i, 1979), 104.

[24] Pamela Thomas, “Through a Glass Darkly: Some Social and Political Implications of Television and Video in the Pacific,” in Transport and Communications for Pacific Microstates: Issues in Organisation and Management, ed. Christopher C. Kissling (Suva, FJ: The Institute of Pacific Studies of the University of the South Pacific, 1984), 68; Jim Richstad, “Television in the Pacific: A New Surge?,” Pacific Islands Communication Journal 13, no. 2 (1984): 19.

[25] Grant Noble, “Radio and Political Socialisation in Papua New Guinea,” Pacific Islands Communication Journal 12, no. 2 (1983): 156–57.

[26] Subramani, “The Writer, Pluralism, and Freedom,” in Altering Imagination (Suva, FJ: Fiji Writers’ Association, 1995), 44–53.

[27] Raymond Pillai, “Directions in Fiji and Pacific Literature,” in Class and Culture in the South Pacific, ed. Antony Hooper et al. (Suva, FJ: Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, 1987), 106. For more on the waves of Oceanian literature, albeit with slightly different dating, see Steven Winduo, “Indigenous Pacific Fiction in English: The ‘First Wave,’” 499–510 and Mohit Prasad, “Indigenous Pacific Fiction in English: The ‘Niu Wave,’” in The Novel in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the South Pacific since 1950, 511–23.

[28] Subramani, “The Oceanic Imaginary,” The Contemporary Pacific 13, no. 1 (2001): 149–62, 155.

[29] Raymond Williams, “When Was Modernism?,” New Left Review 1, no. 175 (1989): 48–52, 49–50.

[30] Andreas Huyssen, “Geographies of Modernism in a Globalizing World,” New German Critique 100 (2007): 189–207, 198.

[31] Kirby Brown, “American Indian Modernities and New Modernist Studies’ ‘Indian Problem,’” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 59, no. 3 (2017): 287–318, 289.

[32] Jahan Ramazani, A Transnational Poetics (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 98.

[33] Abiola Irele, introduction to J. P. Clark-Bekederemo, Collected Plays and Poems, 1958–1988 (Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1991), xxii.

[34] Simon Gikandi, “Preface: Modernism in the World,” Modernism/modernity 13, no. 3 (2006): 419–24, 420.

[35] Damian Skinner, “Indigenous Primitivists: The Challenge of Māori Modernism,” World Art 4, no. 1 (2014): 67–87, 67.

[36] Albert Wendt, Nuanua: Pacific Writing in English Since 1980 (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1995), 3.

[37] Albert Wendt, “Tatauing the Post-Colonial Body,” SPAN: Journal of the South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies 42–43 (1996): 15–29, 26.

[38] Pio Manoa, “Under Nabukalou Bridge,” Mana Review: A South Pacific Journal of Language and Literature 1, no. 2 (1976): 19.

[39] Subramani, “An Interview with Fijian Writer Subramani,” UNISPAC (Dec. 1986): 55.

[40] Subramani, “From the Web of Memory into Forgetting,” in Altering Imagination (Suva, FJ: Fiji Writers’ Association, 1995), 66, 73, 82.

[41] Albert Wendt, “Discovering The Outsider,” in Camus’s “L’Etranger”: Fifty Years On, ed. Adele King (Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1992), 48–50, 48.

[42] Albert Wendt, “Pacific Maps and Fiction(s): A Personal Journey,” in Perceiving Other Worlds, ed. Edwin Thumboo (Singapore: Times Academic, 1991), 179–210, 188.

[43] Laura Doyle, “Geomodernism, Postcoloniality, and Women’s Writing,” in The Cambridge Companion to Modernist Women Writers, ed. Maria Tova Linett (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 130.

[44] This is found too in Chris Tiffin, introduction to South Pacific Images, ed. Chris Tiffin (Brisbane, AU: South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies, 1978), 4.

[45] James H. Cox, “Modernism and Native America,” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 59, no. 3 (2017): 269–72, 270.

[46] Eric Hayot and Rebecca Walkowitz, introduction to A New Vocabulary for Global Modernism, ed. Eric Hayot and Rebecca Walkowitz (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016), 7.

[47] Wai Chee Dimock, “Weak Theory: Henry James, Colm Tóibín, and W. B. Yeats,” Critical Inquiry 39, no. 4 (2013): 732–53, 736.

[48] Jessica Berman, Modernist Commitments: Ethics, Politics, and Transnational Modernism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 7.

[49] Paul K. Saint-Amour, Tense Future: Modernism, Total War, Encyclopedic Form (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 39.

[50] Subramani, South Pacific Literature: From Myth to Fabulation (Suva, FJ: Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, 1985), 45, 72.

[51] Leonard Garae, “Beware, the Worst is still to Come!,” The Mana Annual of Creative Writing (1974): 59–60.

[52] Susan Stanford Friedman, “Periodizing Modernism: Postcolonial Modernities and the Space/Time Borders of Modernist Studies,” Modernism/modernity 13, no. 3 (2006): 425–43, 427.

[53] Anouk Lang, “Modernist Fiction/Alternative Modernisms: Australia, Canada and New Zealand,” in The Novel in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the South Pacific since 1950, 198.

[54] Susan Stanford Friedman, Planetary Modernisms: Provocations on Modernity across Time (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015), 215–16.

[55] See Maebh Long, “Aphorisms and Archipelagos: Relationality in Modernist Studies,” in Aphoristic Modernity: 1890 to the Present, ed. Kostas Boyiopoulos and Michael Shallcross (Leiden, NL: Rodopi/Brill, 2020), 190–205.