The Pacific has long been a space of conquest, exploration, fantasy, and resistance. Pacific Islanders had established civilizations and cultures of travel well before European explorers arrived, initiating centuries of upheaval and transformation. The twentieth century, with its various wars fought in and over the Pacific, is only the most recent era to witness military strife and economic competition. While “Asia Pacific” and “Pacific Rim” were late twentieth-century terms that dealt with the importance of the Pacific to the economic, political, and cultural arrangements that span Asia and the Americas, a new term has arisen—the transpacific. In the twenty-first century, U.S. efforts to dominate the ocean are symbolized not only in the “Pacific pivot” of American policy but also the development of a Transpacific Partnership. This partnership brings together a dozen countries—not including China—in a trade pact whose aim is to cement U.S. influence. That pact signals how the transpacific, up to now an academic term, has reached mass consciousness.
Recognizing the increasing importance of the transpacific as a word and concept, this anthology proposes a framework for transpacific studies that examines the flows of culture, capital, ideas, and labor across the Pacific. These flows involve Asia, the Americas, and the Pacific Islands. The introduction to the anthology by its editors, Janet Hoskins and Viet Thanh Nguyen, consider the advantages and limitations of models found in Asian studies, American studies, and Asian American studies for dealing with these flows. The editors argue that transpacific studies can draw from all three in order to provide a critical model for considering the geopolitical struggle over the Pacific, with its attendant possibilities for inequality and exploitation. Transpacific studies also sheds light on the cultural and political movements, artistic works, and ideas that have arisen to contest state, corporate, and military ambitions. In sum, the transpacific as a concept illuminates how flows across the Pacific can be harnessed for purposes of both domination and resistance.
The anthology’s contributors include geographers (Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Weiqiang Lin), sociologists (Yen Le Espiritu, Hung Cam Thai), literary critics (John Carlos Rowe, J. Francisco Benitez, Yunte Huang, Viet Thanh Nguyen), and anthropologists (Xiang Biao, Heonik Kwon, Nancy Lutkehaus, Janet Hoskins), as well as a historian (Laurie J. Sears), and a film scholar (Akira Lippit). Together these contributors demonstrate how a transpacific model can be deployed across multiple disciplines and from varied locations, with scholars working from the United States, Singapore, Japan and England. Topics include the Cold War, the Chinese state, U.S. imperialism, diasporic and refugee cultures and economies, national cinemas, transpacific art, and the view of the transpacific from Asia. These varied topics are a result of the anthology’s purpose in bringing scholars into conversation and illuminating how location influences the perception of the transpacific. But regardless of the individual view, what the essays gathered here collectively demonstrate is the energy, excitement, and insight that can be generated from within a transpacific framework.
The editors of Trans-Pacific Studies . . . seek critical and subaltern perspectives to study a new field of inquiry which will combine the lessons of Asian Studies, Asian-American Studies and American Studies into a re-figurative dynamic. As such, each of the above disciplines must be shaken from their routine pathways and familiar boundaries and draw inspiration from the contemporary movements of people and scholars—as well as goods and ideas—as both the stuff and the frame of this emergent region. . . . All in all, this volume has taken an important step in developing methods, perspectives and approaches to a new field of inquiry.
[T]his book is much more than a postcolonial intellectual effort. Indeed, one of the virtues of this book is that it opens the arena to an enriching dialogue about the scope and content of transpacific studies as an emerging field. . . . Moreover, the justification for a volume on the transpacific does not require a straw man: the social spaces that fill the intra-Pacific relations—which are aptly developed in most chapters—are rich enough to justify the intellectual effort of rethinking the Pacific as an area of study. Despite its limitations, the editors should be commended for their openness to views that do not necessarily reflect their own, and this ambitious book is a valuable resource for scholars and the general public with an interest in the Pacific.
Janet Alison Hoskins (Editor)
Janet Alison Hoskins is professor of anthropology and religion at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Her books include The Divine Eye and the Diaspora: Vietnamese Syncretism Becomes Transpacific Caodaism (2015), The Play of Time: Kodi Perspectives on History, Calendars and Exchange (1996 recipient of the Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies), and Biographical Objects: How Things Tell the Stories of People’s Lives(1998). She is the contributing editor of four books: Transpacific Studies: Framing an Emerging Field (with Viet Thanh Nguyen, University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014); Headhunting and the Social Imagination in Southeast Asia (1996); A Space Between Oneself and Oneself: Anthropology as a Search for the Subject (1999); and Fragments from Forests and Libraries (2001). She served as president of the Society for the Anthropology of Religion from 2011 to 2013, and has produced three ethnographic documentaries (distributed by www.DER.org), including "The Left Eye of God: Caodaism Travels from Vietnam to California” (2008). She has been a visiting researcher at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles; the Anthropology Department, Oslo, Norway; the Southeast Asian Studies Center, Kyoto, Japan; and the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.
Viet Thanh Nguyen (Editor)
Viet Thanh Nguyen is the Areol Arnold Chair of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. His first novel The Sympathizer won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction as well as many other literary prizes. His nonfiction book Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (2016) was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Award, and his collection of short stories, The Refugees (2017), has received numerous accolades. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times.
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