Instructor: Edward D. Melillo Course Description

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History of the Pacific World, 1898-Present

Salmon cannery workers in Washington State demonstrate their opposition to Initiative 130, the anti-union “Prevention of Labor Uprisings” initiative, which voters defeated in 1938.

Instructor: Edward D. Melillo
Course Description: In recent decades, historians have begun to study the cultures and environments of the Pacific Ocean Region from a transnational perspective. Participants in this seminar will build upon such approaches when examining the Pacific World from the Spanish American War (1898) to the present. Themes and topics will include: immigration, anti-colonial movements, the emergence of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, and the recurring idea of a “Pacific Century.” We will also focus on the history of three regional environmental issues: nuclear testing, fisheries regulation, and the effects of rising sea levels on coastal communities. Although there is no prerequisite for this seminar, it is the companion course to History 73: “Spain in the Pacific World, 1571-1898.”
Course Format: Our seminar meets on Wednesdays from 2:00-4:30 PM in the Life Sciences Building, room 428. It is crucial that all of us come prepared to engage with each other and the assigned material. Attendance is mandatory. Our weekly meetings are far too important to miss, unless you face an urgent health situation. Generally, I will give a short lecture at the beginning of our session; then the four students who have written seminar papers will lead the discussion for the remainder of our meeting. These individuals will distribute their seminar papers to the rest of the class via e-mail no later than 5:00 PM on the Tuesday prior to our Wednesday meetings.
Seminar Papers: Each week, four of you will write a five-page seminar paper, which you will e-mail to me and your classmates as a Microsoft Word document by 5:00 PM on the Tuesday before our Wednesday meeting. I will provide prompts and topical guidance for each assignment. These short papers will provide the basis for our in-class discussions and will give me the opportunity to offer feedback on your writing and your ideas. Over the course of the semester, you will write four papers. It is the responsibility of all seminar participants to read the four essays prior to our session.
Assessment of Your Work: This is a discussion-based seminar, so class participation and discussion leadership will count for 40% of your final grade. Writing assignments will comprise the remaining 60% of your grade. I have done my best to keep weekly reading assignments under 300 pages.
Plagiarism: The Amherst College community takes plagiarism very seriously. Plagiarism is the presentation of the ideas or words of others as if they are your own. It amounts to a violation of basic ethical principles and a breach of academic standards of conduct. You must use quotation marks when presenting phrases that you have not written, and you must cite sources for ideas that are not your own. The Amherst College policy on plagiarism appears online at:

If you need further clarification, please consult the Amherst College Library website on citation methods:
Contacting me: E-mail ( is the easiest way to reach me. You can expect a response within 12 hours. My office hours this semester are Tuesdays from 12:30 PM-2:00 PM and Wednesdays from 10:00 AM-12:00 PM. I will post a weekly sign-up sheet outside the door of my office (Morgan 112).
Required Books: Five books are required for this course. They are available at Food for Thought Books at 106 North Pleasant Street in Amherst:

  • Yen Le Espiritu, Home Bound: Filipino American Lives Across Cultures, Communities, and Countries (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003);

  • Jane Dibblin, Day of Two Suns: U.S. Nuclear Testing and the Pacific Islanders (New York: New Amsterdam Books, 1990);

  • Haunani-Kay Trask, From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawaii (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 1999);

  • David Arnold, The Fisherman’s Frontier: People and Salmon in Southeast Alaska (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008);

  • Michael Belgrave, Historical Frictions: Māori Claims and Reinvented Histories (Auckland, NZ: Aukland University Press, 2005)

Course Schedule
Wednesday, September 15: Course Introduction

To read for September 22:

  • Epeli Hau’ofa, “Our Sea of Islands,” in Rob Wilson and Arif Dirlik, eds., Asia/Pacific As Space of Cultural Production (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995), 86-98.

  • Greg Dening, “History ‘in’ the Pacific,” in David L. Hanlon and Geoffrey Miles White, eds., Voyaging Through the Contemporary Pacific (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2000), 135-40.

  • Arif Dirlik “The Asia-Pacific Idea: Reality and Representation in the Invention of a Regional Structure,” Journal of World History 3, no. 1 (1992): 55-79.

  • R. Gerard Ward, “Earth’s Empty Quarter? The Pacific Islands in a Pacific Century,” The Geographical Journal 155, no. 2 (1989): 235-46.

Wednesday, September 22: Imagining the Pacific

To read for September 29:

  • Yen Le Espiritu, Home Bound: Filipino American Lives Across Cultures, Communities, and Countries (222 pages).

  • Cindy I-Fen Cheng, “Identities and Places: On Writing the History of Filipinotown, Los Angeles,” Journal of Asian American Studies 12, no. 1 (2009): 1-33.

  • James Clifford, “Diasporas” in Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997), 244-78.

Wednesday, September 29: The Filipino Diaspora

To read for October 6:

  • Jane Dibblin, Day of Two Suns: U.S. Nuclear Testing and the Pacific Islanders (254 pages).

  • Lindsay Vincent Papeete, “French Accused of Pacific Nuclear Cover-Up,” The Guardian (January 1, 2006):

  • Miriam Kahn, “Tahiti Intertwined: Ancestral Land, Tourist Postcard, and Nuclear Test Site,” American Anthropologist 102, no. 1 (2000): 7-26.

Wednesday, October 6: Radioactive Oceania

To read for October 22:

  • Michael Belgrave, Historical Frictions: Māori Claims and Reinvented Histories (336 pages).

  • Linda Waimarie Nikora, Mohi Rua, and Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, “Renewal and Resistance: Moko in Contemporary New Zealand,” Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology 17, no. 6 (2007): 477-89.

  • Stuart Hall, “The West and the Rest: Discourse and Power,” in Tania Das Gupta, ed., Race and Racialization: Essential Readings (Tornonto, Ontario: Canadian Scholars’ Press, Inc., 2007), 56-60.

  • Watch (streaming from E-Reserve): Once Were Warriors” (Fine Line Features, 1994), 102 minutes.

Wednesday, October 13: No seminar – I will be out of town.
Wednesday, October 22: Māori Assertions, Colonial Discourse

To read for October 29:

  • Geoffrey Whitehall, “Politics after the Event: Exceeding Asia/Pacific,” Borderlands E-Journal 6, no. 1 (2007). Available at:

  • Pekka Korhonen, “The Pacific Age in World History,” Journal of World History 7, no. 1 (1996): 41-70.

  • Rosemary Foot and Andrew Walter, “Whatever Happened to the Pacific Century?” Review of International Studies 25, no. 5 (1999): 245-69.

Wednesday, October 29: Has the Pacific Century Arrived?

To read for November 3:

  • Haunani-Kay Trask, From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawaii (252 pages).

  • Mansel G. Blackford, “Environmental Justice, Native Rights, Tourism, and Opposition to Military Control: The Case of Kaho’olawe,” The Journal of American History 91, no. 2 (2004): 544-71.

  • Li Narangoa and Robert Cribb, “Nations-of-intent: From Counterfactual History to Counterfactual Geography,” Journal of Historical Geography 36, no. 3 (2010): 1-10.

Wednesday, November 3: Dreaming of the Hawai’ian Nation

To read for November 10:

  • Patrick D. Nunn, “On the Convergence of Myth and Reality: Examples from the Pacific Islands,” The Geographical Journal 167, no. 2 (2001): 125-38.

  • Karen Elizabeth McNamara and Chris Gibson, “‘We do not want to leave our land’: Pacific ambassadors at the United Nations resist the category of ‘climate refugees,” Geoforum 40, no. 3 (2009): 475-83.

  • Listen to: Christopher Joyce, “Pacific Island Cultures Brace for Climate Change,” National Public Radio (June 11, 2007):

Wednesday, November 10: The Climates of Oceania

To read for November 17:

  • David Arnold, The Fisherman’s Frontier: People and Salmon in Southeast Alaska (195 pages).

  • Watch (streaming from E-Reserve): “The Cove” (Lionsgate, 2009), 96 minutes.

Wednesday, November 17: Fisheries Management

To read for December 1:

  • Rob Wilson, “Killer Capitalism on the Pacific Rim: Theorizing Major and Minor Modes of the Korean Global,” boundary 2 34, no. 1 (2007): 115-33.

  • Marshall Sahlins, “Cosmologies of Capitalism: The Trans-Pacific Sector of ‘The World System,’” in Nicholas B. Dirks, Geoff Eley, and Sherry B. Ortner, eds., Culture/Power/History: A Reader in Contemporary Social Theory (Princeton University Press,

  • John Connell, “‘The Taste of Paradise’: Selling Fiji and Fiji Water,” Asia Pacific Viewpoint 47, no. 3 (2006): 342-50.

  • Watch: The Coconut Revolution (Stampede Films, 2001), 52 minutes:

Wednesday, November 24: Thanksgiving Recess
Wednesday, December 1: Pacific variants of Capitalism

To read for December 8:

  • Transcript of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s “Apology to Australia’s Indigenous People,” (February 13, 2008):

  • G. Raumati Hook, “The Political Apology as Millenial Phenomenon,” MAI Review no. 2 (2008): 1-13.

  • Watch (streaming from E-Reserve): “Rabbit-Proof Fence” (Miramax Films, 2001)

Wednesday, December 8: The Apologetic Turn

To read for December 15:

  • Michael Sturma, “Mimicry, Mockery and Make-overs: Western Visitors in South Pacific Dress,” Fashion Theory 4, no. 2 (2000): 141-56.

  • Ty Matejowsky, “SPAM and Fast-food ‘Glocalization’ in the Philippines,” Food, Culture and Society: An International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research 10, no. 1 (2007): 23-41.

  • Jamon Halvaksz, “Cannibalistic Imaginaries: Mining the Natural and Social Body in Papua New Guinea,” The Contemporary Pacific 18, no. 2 (2006): 335-59.

  • Geremie R. Barmé, “China’s Flat Earth: History and 8 August 2008,” The China Quarterly no. 197 (March 2009): 64-86.

Wednesday, December 15: Final Class – Pacific Redux

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