Making Micronesia: A Political Biography of Tosiwo Nakayama
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328pp. April 2014
Making Micronesia: A Political Biography of Tosiwo Nakayama
Author: Hanlon, David;
Making Micronesia is the story of Tosiwo Nakayama, the first president of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Born to a Japanese father and an island woman in 1931 on an atoll northwest of the main Chuuk Lagoon group, Nakayama grew up during Japan’s colonial administration of greater Micronesia and later proved adept at adjusting to life in post-war Chuuk and under the American-administered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. After studying at the University of Hawai‘i, Nakayama returned to Chuuk in 1958 and quickly advanced through a series of administrative positions before winning election to the House of Delegates (later Senate) of the Congress of Micronesia. He served as its president from 1965 to1967 and again from 1973 to 1978.

More than any other individual, Nakayama is credited with managing the complex political discussions on Saipan in 1975 that resulted in a national constitution for the different Micronesian states that made up the Trust Territory. A proponent of independence, he was a key player in the lengthy negotiations with the U.S. government and throughout the islands that culminated in the Compact of Free Association and the eventual creation of the FSM. In 1979 Nakayama was elected the first president of the FSM and spent the next eight years working to solidify an island nation and to see the Compact of Free Association through to approval and implementation.

One wonders what the contemporary political configuration of the western Pacific would look like without Tosiwo Nakayama. His story, however, involves much more than a narrative of political events. Nakayama’s rise to prominence constitutes a remarkable story given the physical, political, and cultural distances he negotiated. His engagements with colonialism, decolonization, and nation-making place him squarely in the middle of the most important issues in twentieth-century Pacific Islands history. The study of his life also invites a reconsideration of migration, transnational crossings, and the actual size of island worlds. Making Micronesia follows Nakayama’s life through time, focusing on the expansiveness of his vision. In many ways, “Macronesia,” not “Micronesia,” seems a more appropriate term for the world he inhabited and tried to make accessible to others.

27 illustrations


"This was always going to be an important book because it is about such an important man. . . . [F]or those interested in political biography and leadership in the Pacific Islands more generally, Making Micronesia is a significant contribution. What makes this book especially welcome is the seamless synthesis of life and times that places one man’s story at the centre of the many themes and debates pertinent to the contemporary Pacific and the broader scholarly and policy world of which it is part. Approaching history from the perspective of one individual has endogenous limitations, but when done like this it can provide incredibly rich insights." —The Journal of Pacific History, 49:4 (2014)

"Hanlon effectively describes the political, cultural and territorial divisions that were apparent throughout the political status negotiations and the constitutional convention deliberations. What is also evident is that Nakayama possessed dedication, resolve, and practical skills, complemented by humility and a sense of deep responsibility. . . . The book’s insights into the nature and character of Micronesian politics will be of value to Pacific scholars. There are also lessons about leadership, within the Pacific but also more widely." —Australian Journal of Politics & History, 60:3 (2015)

"Making Micronesia is a very readable, balanced, and eminently well-researched account of Tosiwo Nakayama’s contributions to the creation of the Federated States of Micronesia as a nation. It is also a compelling portrait of an island leader of exceptional modesty, honesty, and decency. This is a book that deserves a careful reading by students of Pacific Studies and especially by young Micronesians, who will appreciate Hanlon’s careful scholarship and sympathetic analysis."—Pacific Affairs, 89:1 (March 2016)

Author: Hanlon, David;
David Hanlon is a past director of the Center for Pacific Islands Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. A former editor of The Contemporary Pacific: A Journal of Island Affairs and the Pacific Islands Monograph Series, he currently teaches in the university’s Department of History.



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