Transpacific Studies: Framing an Emerging Field
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280pp. October 2014
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Transpacific Studies: Framing an Emerging Field
Editor: Hoskins, Janet; Nguyen, Viet Thanh;
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.


Intersections: Asian and Pacific American Transcultural Studies Series
"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." —International Social Science Review, 91:1 (2015)
Editor: Hoskins, Janet; Nguyen, Viet Thanh;
Janet Hoskins is professor of anthropology at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. She is the author of The Play of Time: Kodi Perspectives on Calendars, History and Exchange (University of California Press 1994, winner of the 1996 Benda Prize for Southeast Asian Studies), Biographical Objects: How Things Tell the Story of People’s Lives (Routledge, 1998), and is the contributing editor of Headhunting and the Social Imagination in Southeast Asia (Stanford, 1996), Anthropology as a Search for the Subject: The Space Between One Self and Another (Donizelli, 1999), and Fragments from Forests and Libraries (Carolina Academic Press 2000). Her book The Divine Eye and the Diaspora: Vietnamese Syncretism Becomes Transpacific Caodaism will be published in 2015.

Viet Thanh Nguyen is an associate professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. He is the author of Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (Oxford University Press, 2002). He has held residencies, fellowships and scholarships at the Fine Arts Work Center, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and the American Council of Learned Societies. He is currently working on a comparative study of American and Vietnamese memories and representations of the American War in Viet Nam, focusing on the literary and visual arts.

"[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."—International Social Science Review, 91:1 (2015)



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