Dream of the Water Children: The Black Pacific

Black Pacific Curriculum

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Last Updated: October 7, 2016

The Black Pacific   is a relatively new term used in a variety of ways.  However, of course, because of its direct relation to mapping, pointing to geographic-historical-political and decidedly transnational and transcultural forms embedded in the term, the topics are all related to specific periods of history that mark imperialism, colonialism, slavery, globalization and militarism related to Orientalism, racism and certain kinds of power relations.  With maps, the masters of maps configure our relationship to territory and people, ecology, approaches to difference and power relations.

The Black Pacific is a pointer, which illuminates the injustices and loss in relation to the creation of a global hierarchy of color, of hypodescent (white cultures at the top, black at the bottom). It has been “naturalized” (made natural), “nationalized” (made into a question of nations and cultures and sub-cultures within hierarchies upon hierarchies), and normalized.

In naming a Black Pacific, we are using this to refer to the many beings, lives, ways of living, empowerments, engagements, links with health, wealth, and happiness, that have been decimated, damaged, displaced, fragmented, and made violent, by global elite processes.  In this, all of us, whoever we are, participate, even with our not paying attention.  Through study, we may learn, and perhaps pick one aspect or two, to work to struggle against the loss of histories and ways of living so vital to ecological and spiritual existence.

Since I am primarily an English-language reader, with some Japanese and Spanish, my readings/authors reflect this limitation.

Foundational Literature

Advocacy and postcolonial thought are the twin drivers that help to create this reading list.  The list is meant to read, re-visit, displace, place, over-and-over again, with others in discussion and contestation, yet with an eye towards social justice, advocacy, deconstruction, creativity and creating conditions for a new society divested of imperial/colonial domination-practices, yet not devoid of power, convictions, traditions and willingness to re-formulate with others.

Some Topics that generate the Black Pacific mindscape:

1.  Indigenous Black Asia – Negritos and related tribes of Middle and South Pacific Islands, as well as those that were previously present in Southern China, Taiwan, the Philippines.

2. Blackbirding and the South Seas Island Slave trade. Australia, Peru, Brazil, Chile, and the West Coast United States are the foremost areas that participated in this business that spread across almost the entire Pacific from the 17th through early 20th century at its height.  This still continues today–and called “human trafficking.”  Included in this reality is the throwing together of various Black Asians with Africans who had been brought there from mainland United States and Australia to mix along with Irish, Chinese, and Japanese, Filipino, and other workers as well.  In places such as Chile, Peru, and Southeast Asia, the local Black Asian tribes are very aware of and proud of their Asian and African mix along with their indigenous heritage.  However, colonizers saw them all as the same. In most instances, the White Americans, the White Australians, and the White Europeans, called them all “Niggers.”

3. Arrival of Black soldiers of various African and Asian regions.  Tribes, of Tasmanian, Malay, Negrito and other origins, that were already present before the peoples of the present nations (who usually invaded or settled later) who mixed with those who came as part of colonial armies and resulting economies (labor trade and human trafficking) into the Pacific. This began on a global scale with colonial Europeans (it must be remembered that there was slavery before their arrival), then into the Spanish-American War and continuing with the arrival of African-American soldiers with the U.S. forces into the Pacific.  This, of course creates both intensifications and new prejudices and identity formations along the lines of mimicking power and resistance (for instance, how Japanese saw African-Americans being treated as ‘dirt monkeys’ by the white officers and soldiers, and being segregated by the Occupation after the war as well).

4. Land Policies, Missionaries and dominant Christianities, slavery, discrimination, criminalization of indigenous and ‘black Asian’ traditions, language, displacing and plundering, etc. and other tactics that have been used by colonial powers to obliterate communities and to re-make the world in European and Euro-American image.  Included are various forms of resistance that are molded by the local colonial processes, therefore differing in many ways at the same time they homogenize the processes. Transnational adoption can be considered among these forms as a industry of displacement and the maintenance along with disruptions, of racial, gender, sexual, and caste hierarchies in nations.

5. How colonialism engendered, emboldened, constructed and displaced local forms of nationalisms and racisms and new identities which involve alterities and priorities.

6. The World Wars (I and II) that further decimated Black Asian communities and identities, and split along identity and survival lines (brother versus brother so to speak), modernizing weaponry and urbanizing along Western ways becoming a propensity to create new hierarchies in the Pacific. This must be overlayed onto histories of local Pacific “revolutions” and conflicts that influenced and often determined the outcomes of the invading forces and resulting military occupations.

7. The children and families and forms of thought and cultured born from the union of African and African-Americans with Asian and Pacific Islanders, and its diaspora (which I include myself).  In the post war period, those of my kind (in Philippines, Japan, Okinawa, Korea, and Southeast Asia) were called ‘Amerasian.’  This is distinct from what is en vogue today–racialized identities removed from direct war conditions and numerously named ‘Black-Asian’ or ‘Blasian,’ and their particular regional names (such as Blackanese–i.e. Black-Japanese and Blorean and Blapino, etc.). The proliferation of these names often obscure and de-historicize Amerasian and war histories.

8. The transnational adoption industry (especially that of South Korea), downplaying of sex work and its importance for modern military and corporate male life and militarism/colonialism, human trafficking—which is a continuation of blackbirding in the present era, that includes issues of women and gay sex workers and racism, and other issues are important issues that need addressing.

 

It is important to note some problems that I have with current studies on Blackness, African-American and African identity–which are western-invented forms of identity, directly affecting how people conceive of, and speak of, and think of a topic such as ‘The Black Pacific.” Each culture and sub-culture and nation, have their own ways of making social-cultural categories and hierarchies.

The biggest issue I have is with the notion that Black people come from Africa and all black topics have some connection to an ‘Africa.’

My response to this is to critique the internalized colonization (mental) of those who posit an original Africa as a single birthplace. Supposedly it has been “proven” by science, but this is not the case. Yes it has been posited and stated by some as “proof”—perhaps to counter the white supremacy that infuses world history and archeology and the natural and human sciences and humanities. Any idea of a single origin of things is counter to science, in my opinion. So I do not think that giving single origins to the things of the world, much less people and cultures, is an idea that is beneficial, accurate, or useful to the idea of Blackness, except to reduce yet another topic to another hierarchical warfare of origins, entitlements, and placing all of it in the tired notion of “progress” and evolution–which also entitles itself to the survival of the fittest, evolution and genocide, and the ideas of the modern and the primitive.

In so saying, my own studies on the Black Pacific keep things into the recent thousand years of human knowledge and subtle details, as well as complex mixings and multicultural, inter-cultural relations that dot the histories of humanity  in general.  The Black Pacific may, or may not, have anything to do with Africa or African-American-ness. Even African-Americans, unless their stories have been passed down in their families, will notice a diversity in origins–with some from Asia and the South Seas and Southeast Asia—not Africa.  During colonization, the intensification of forced labor, migrations, rape, destruction, takeover (of people and historical records, etc.), inter-marriage (force, arranged, or through romance and choice, etc.), and cross-cultural contact (forced or not, through violence or not), and other ways, created many losses of historical realities and cultures and memory. I believe we must be sensitive to this in relation to studying the Black Pacific.

To begin grappling with your own connection to the Black Pacific, I recommend reading the following, in order of reading (this list will be revised as it goes):

This list is meant to be read *In Order of Mention” and will be occasionally updated.

                  List Last Updated: 10-7-2016

1)   Emma Christopher and Cassandra Pybus –

      Many Middle Passages: Forced Migration and the Making of the Modern World

2)   Gerald Horne –

      The White Pacific: US Imperialism and Slavery in the South Seas After the Civil War

3)   Robert Kirk –

      Paradise Past: The Transformation of the Pacific, 1520 – 1910

4)  Daniel Broudy, Peter Simpson, and Makoto Arakaki (editors) –

        Under Occupation: Resistance and Struggle in a Militarised Asia-Pacific 

5)   Julian Aguon –

      What We Bury at Night: Disposable Humanity

6)   Nicholas Clements –

      The Black War: Fear, Sex, and Resistance in Tasmania

7)   Stuart Creighton Miller –

      Benevolent Assimilation: The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903

8)   Steven DeBonis –

      Children of the Enemy: Oral Histories of Vietnamese Amerasians and Their Mothers

9)   Michael Cullen Green –

      Black Yanks in the Pacific: Race in the Making of the American Military Empire

          After World War II

10)  Ji-Yeon Yuh –

       Beyond the Shadow of Camptown: Korean Military Brides in America

11)  Sturdevant and Stoltzfus –

       Let the Good Times Roll: Prostitution and the U.S. Military in Asia

12)  Heinz Insu-Fenkl –

       Memories of My Ghost Brother  (Memoir of a Black-Korean Amerasian boy)

13)  Bernard Lucious –

       In the Black Pacific: Testimonies of Afro-Vietnamese Amerasian Displacements –

           (Chapter in: Displacements and Diasporas: Asians in the Americas)

14)  West, Levine, and Hitz (editors) –

      America’s Wars in Asia: A Cultural Approach to History and Memory

15)  Emmanuelle Saada –

      Empire’s Children: Race, Filiation, and Citizenship in the French Colonies

16)  Christina Firpo –

       The Uprooted: Race, Children, and Imperialism in French Indochina, 1890-1980

17)  Tobias Rettig and Karl Hack (editors) –

       Colonial Armies in Southeast Asia

18)  Lisa Lowe –

       The Intimacies of Four Continents

19)  Etsuko Taketani –

       The Black Pacific Narrative: Geographic Imaginings of Race and Empire

             between the World Wars

20)  Judith Bennett and Angela Wanhalla (editors) –

       Mothers’ Darlings of the South Pacific: The Children of Indigenous Women and

           U.S. Servicemen, World War II

21)  Holly Barker –

      Bravo for the Marshallese: Regaining Control in a Post-Nuclear, Post-Colonial World 

22)  Robbie Shilliam –

       The Black Pacific: Anti-Colonial Struggles and Oceanic Connection

 

For a fairly large *beginning* list of works, please visit my Website about my book and go to the ‘Resources’ page. Click anywhere on this paragraph to go off of this blog to that link:  http://swordglint.wix.com/water-children-book#!resources/cjpx

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