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Political Life Writing in the Pacific

Political Life Writing in the Pacific: Reflections on Practice OPEN ACCESS

Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: ANU Press
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    Political Life Writing in the Pacific
    Book Description:

    This book aims to reflect on the experiential side of writing political lives in the Pacific region. The collection touches on aspects of the life writing art that are particularly pertinent to political figures: public perception and ideology; identifying important political successes and policy initiatives; grappling with issues like corruption and age-old political science questions about leadership and ‘dirty hands’. These are general themes but they take on a particular significance in the Pacific context and so the contributions explore these themes in relation to patterns of colonisation and the memory of independence; issues elliptically captured by terms like ‘culture’ and ‘tradition’; the nature of ‘self’ presented in Pacific life writing; and the tendency for many of these texts to be written by ‘outsiders’, or at least the increasingly contested nature of what that term means.

    eISBN: 978-1-925022-61-2
    Subjects: Political Science, History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Jack Corbett

    The state of life writing in the Pacific presents us with something of a paradox. On the one hand, on a country-by-country basis, there seem to be numerous gaps, with academics the primary authors of the few lives that have been written. On the other hand, as Doug Munro has remarked, when taken as a group, the corpus of life writing in the Pacific is one of the most substantial bodies of work about the politics and history of the region.² Certainly, when it comes to the study of leadership and political leadership in particular, nothing from the mainstream academic...

  2. Jonathan Ritchie

    Political life writing in Papua New Guinea (PNG) raises themes and issues which resonate across much of Melanesia. Like elsewhere, the individual lived life provides a convenient prism through which to view the larger patterns and processes of society. In this chapter, I write about the pleasure of researching and writing the biography of one of Papua New Guinea’s independence leaders and a ‘founding father’ of the nation, the late Sir Ebia Olewale, and reflect on how my book relates to other efforts.¹ I worked on this project between 2009 and 2012.

    This most rewarding exercise has led me to...

  3. Christopher Chevalier

    The life of Solomon Sunaone Mamaloni – the first Chief Minister and three-time Prime Minister of Solomon Islands – sheds light on the social, cultural, economic, political and historical forces that have shaped that country leading up to and beyond independence. Like other figures discussed in this volume, Mamaloni was a significant actor in some of the most crucial events in his country’s transition up to and beyond independence. His memory remains deeply cherished by many of those whom he led. He was a mercurial yet human leader, with both vices and endearing qualities, who took on the herculean task...

  4. Ceridwen Spark

    Who should tell a life story? For whom should they write? These questions confront most life writers. Such questions are crucial for outsiders writing about Pacific lives but they are also important for insiders. In late 2011 I was in the process of planning a research project which involved producing six films about leading Papua New Guinean women. The project, to be funded by the gender division of AusAID, was to be conducted in collaboration with the Centre for Social and Creative Media at the University of Goroka. In the spirit of ‘rewriting history from the bottom up’, the project...

  5. Brij V. Lal

    Fiji is an ethnically divided society where public memory has long been racially archived. This raises particular questions about what to write and from whose perspective; it turns ‘insider’ into the ‘outsider’, and vice versa. In this chapter, I reflect on writing the life of one figure, Jai Ram Reddy. He was the dominant leader of the Indo-Fijians from the mid-1970s to the late 1990s when his political life ended in a massive defeat and he departed the political scene for good. The post-independence years were deeply fraught for Fiji in general and for Indo-Fijians in particular. Independence had been...

  6. Deryck Scarr

    Like many other contributors to this volume, I came to life writing quite by chance and I hesitate to add reflections that touch upon theory in any shape or form, unless in argument against paying overmuch attention to psychological analysis even of the living let alone of the dead. The authorities who deal in psychology were once likened to ‘Romans consulting Sibylline books’, but admittedly by a novelist in wartime.¹ And while I have always greatly admired works like Carola Oman’sLife of Nelson, I had never particularly seen myself as setting up as a biographer in any major way,...

  7. Areti Metuamate

    In this chapter I discuss the challenges of writing the biography of a fellow Pacific Islander and elaborate on the approach I adopt. The issues I confront are not unique but are variously shared by other contributors. During a visit to Tonga in early 2012 I was told by a Tongan friend that as a person of Pasifika heritage² I did not quite fit the mould of being apalangiin Tonga because I share a common connection as a native of Polynesia. At the same time, however, because I was not Tongan I was also not considered an ‘insider’.³...

  8. Nicole Haley

    This chapter is written to honour the life and memory of Sane Noma, a ritual leader, land mediator and visionary, who died in 2006. It is not just Sane’s story though; it is also my story and that of my daughter Aliria, who was born some two years after Sane’s death. It is a deeply personal account of lives irrevocably entangled through dreams, prophesies and shared experiences past, present and future.

    Mummy I got into a fight with a boy at school today. I told the class that when I get bigger I am going to be able to turn...

  9. Sethy Regenvanu

    Why do public figures in the Pacific need to record their lives? What are the benefits, pitfalls, opportunities and challenges of this enterprise? I cannot speak for others but in my case I can safely say that I did not always intend to write about my life. Indeed, I was about 55 years old when I started to collect the materials that make up my autobiography:Laef Blong Mi: From Village to Nation: An Autobiography.¹ If you haven’t read my book, here is a very brief background of my life. I grew up in a village in rural Vanuatu on...

  10. Carol Kidu

    My autobiographyA Remarkable Journeyis not a political life story – it is a love story that intertwines with politics because it is about the challenges of learning to live in a culture that is very different from my culture of birth, and about my life story that provided a foundation for my entry into politics. It also superficially documents political events that prompted me to contest an election in spite of the fact that I knew very little about politics.

    A Remarkable Journeywas written as part of the grieving process after the death in January 1994 of...

  11. Clive Moore

    Editing the autobiographies of leading Pacific politicians and statesmen is an unusual exercise which involves maintaining the integrity of the editor while encouraging the personal expression and beliefs of the autobiographer. I came to Pacific biography and autobiography late in my academic career when between 2006 and 2008 I edited the autobiography of Sir Peter Kenilorea, the first Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands.¹ I am also undertaking a similar task for Sir Nathaniel Waena, an ex-public servant, Cabinet Minister and Governor-General. As well, in the course of preparing aSolomon Islands Historical Encyclopaedia, 1893–1978, I have written 395...

  12. Doug Munro

    Biography has long had a mixed reputation, hailed by some as the essence of history and by others as an unsatisfactory prism through which to view the past. Despite persistent criticism, the output of political biography remains unabated. In Pacific Islands historiography, a flourishing genre of political auto/biography can be divided into three broad categories: academic biographies; conventional autobiographies; and autobiographies of a different sort, involving Islander author and academic facilitator.² The state of political biography in New Zealand, also healthy, is more varied.³ At the top of the food chain are the prime ministers, many of whom are the...