The audacity of the ocean: Gendered politics of positionality in the Pacific


Throughout the contemporary Pacific, relationships that indigeneity makes possible are emerging as
celebrated resistance to post-colonial development anxieties. In the process, lived experience
heightens the commitment to decolonize thinking, language and practice in teaching and research.
Not only because these imperatives are highly personalized but also because they are gendered and
heavy with generational trauma. These gendered dynamics circulate around popular culture and
imaginaries of Pacific paradise but also problematically around the challenges of long-standing intolerances especially around gender and race. The paper asks how a gendered politics of positionality
engages with emerging positionalities that uncritically allow for such intolerances. I touch on two
ways in which colonial continuities of belittlement are often reinforced, but are also offering hopeful and careful decolonial scholarly futures. The first is the naming of the Pacific and the second is
supervising women doctoral candidates from the Pacific. In this paper, the audacity of the ocean
offers a metaphorical opportunity to carefully reconcile these tensions and provide trajectories for
decolonial knowledge-making. However, it also offers a material way of understanding the ongoing work with ‘tensions’ and disruptions in their ever present but changeable forms. Oceanic
tropes and a feminist Oceanic audacity of embodied engagement in the Pacific offer dynamic and
gendered intellectual agility which runs counter to the tropical imageries of languid indifference.

Research Type(s)
Journal Article
Submitted by Yvonne Underhill-Sem
March 24, 2021
Published in

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