Publication Details

Steel, F. M. (2010). Maritime mobilities in Pacific history: Towards a scholarship of betweeness. In G. Mom, P. Norton, G. W. Clarsen & G. Pirie (Eds.), Mobility in History: Themes in Transport (pp. 199-204). Neuchatel: Editions Alphil.


In examining the significance of mobility in the long sweep of human history in the Pacific, the world's largest ocean where seventy per cent of the world's islands are to be found, one cannot but begin with the words of the late Tongan scholar, writer and visionary, Epeli Hau’ofa. In 1993 Hau’ofa proposed a new way of thinking about the region he called Oceania. He critiqued the limitations of an imposed regional imaginary, fostered by imperial rulers, western diplomats, academics, aid donors and the like, which emphasised the smallness, isolation and dependency of tiny islands in a far sea. Starting instead with the ways indigenous inhabitants understood their own environment, he embraced the sea as an expansive, active, connecting space, rather than a dividing element. Regarding both water and land equally as sites of history, Oceania is, he argued, ‘Our Sea of Islands’.

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Editions Alphil