1st Edition

American Pacificism Oceania in the U.S. Imagination

By Paul Lyons Copyright 2006
    288 Pages
    by Routledge

    288 Pages
    by Routledge

    This provocative analysis and critique of American representations of Oceania and Oceanians from the nineteenth century to the present, argues that imperial fantasies have glossed over a complex, violent history. It introduces the concept of ‘American Pacificism’, a theoretical framework that draws on contemporary theories of friendship, hospitality and tourism to refigure established debates around ‘orientalism’ for an Oceanian context.

    Paul Lyons explores American-Islander relations and traces the ways in which two fundamental conceptions of Oceania have been entwined in the American imagination. On the one hand, the Pacific islands are seen as economic and geopolitical ‘stepping stones’, rather than ends in themselves, whilst on the other they are viewed as ends of the earth or ‘cultural limits’, unencumbered by notions of sin, antitheses to the industrial worlds of economic and political modernity. However, both conceptions obscure not only Islander cultures, but also innovative responses to incursion. The islands instead emerge in relation to American national identity, as places for scientific discovery, soul-saving and civilizing missions, manhood-testing adventure, nuclear testing and eroticized furloughs between maritime work and warfare.

    Ranging from first contact and the colonial archive through to postcolonialism and global tourism, this thought-provoking volume draws upon a wide, rewarding collection of literary works, historical and cultural scholarship, government documents and tourist literature.

    Acknowledgements  Introduction: Bound-Together Stories, Varieties of Ignorance, and the Challenge of Hospitality  1. Where "Cannibalism" Has Been, Tourism Will Be: Forms and Functions of American Pacificism  2. Opening Accounts in the South Seas: Edgar Allan Poe's Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, James Fenimore Cooper's The Crater and the Antebellum Development of American Pacificism  3. Lines of Fright: Fear, Perception, Performance and the "Seen" of Cannibalism in Charles Wilkes' Narrative and Herman Melville's Typee  4. A Poetics of Relation: Friendships Between Oceanians and Americans in the Literature of Encounter  5. From Man-Eaters to Spam-Eaters: Cannibal Tours, Lotus-Eaters and the (anti)Development of Early Twentieth-Century Imaginings of Oceania  6. Redeeming Hawai'i (and Oceania) in Cold War Terms: A. Grove Day, James Michener and Histouricism  Conclusion: Changing Pre-Scriptions: Varieties of Antitourism in the Contemporary Literatures of Oceania  Bibliography


    Paul Lyons is Associate Professor of English at the University of Hawai´i-Manoa. He publishes and reviews regularly on American literature, and is the author of three novels. In 2004 he received the Board of Regents´ Award for Excellence in Teaching.

    Paul Lyons provides a splendid combination of original archival work, literary and psychoanalytical speculation, and anthropological insight, making this a cutting-edge kind of interventionist work in postcolonial literary research. The book is written in a historically informed yet theoretically rich mode that should be of interest not only to Pacific Studies scholars but also to those interested in the broader dynamics of American imperialism and the vocabularies of racial and cultural interaction.

    Rob Wilson, University of California at Santa Cruz



    "Lyons's work is a very welcome contribution to the ongoing and dynamic body of Pacific literature scholarship, and an exceedingly well-researched genealogy of US Pacificism that implicates and informs the disciplines of anthropology, contemporary Pacific literature, and American studies."