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Pacific Studies


Pacific Studies 

Pacific Studies investigates the long historical fetch and socio-political dimensions of maritime life and oceanic crossings, inclusive of San Diego, the Pacific Rim, and points outward.

The Institute of Arts and Humanities was awarded a grant from UC Humanities Research Institute Proposal for the UC Pacific Worlds Initiative (PI: Mark Hanna).  

UC Pacific Worlds Initiative Workshops

The Institute of Arts & Humanities launched the UC Pacific Worlds Initiative (UCPWI) in 2017. The Initiative hosts weekly workshops for faculty and graduate students from different fields and disciplines to discuss Pacific and global histories. Workshops consider how including the Pacific challenges the conventional ways that we narrate the past. Workshops are held on Mondays at noon throughout the academic year in LIT 310. Please contact Pacific Studies Coordinator Chris Costello for details.

Upcoming Workshops

May 23, 2019: "A Muslim Admiral and the Chinese Fleet: A Revisionist View of Zheng He's Ocean Voyages (1405-1433) in Global Perspective" with Guotong Li, Professor at California State University Long Beach. Humanities and Social Sciences Building, Room 4025 (Galbraith Room), 12:00 - 1:00 p.m. A complimentary light lunch will be served - all are encouraged to attend.


Past Workshops

May 16, 2019: "Local Color: Hawaiian Shave Ice, Aesthetics, and State Multiculturalism" with Dr. Hi'ilei Hobart, Postdoctoral Fellow in Native Studies in the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University. 

Nothing says Hawaiʻi like Shave Ice,” the Los Angeles Times declared in a 2014 travel article. The recent popularization of Hawaiʻi-associated foods dovetails with renewed interest in the Pacific across multiple cultural registers. Focusing on shave ice as part of this phenomenon, this presentation reconstructs the history of Hawaiian shave ice by taking settler colonial and Indigenous politics into account. Given the complex social context of migration, diaspora, and Asian settler colonialism in forming Hawaiʻi’s ‘local’ identity, shave ice presents a useful illustration of how state multiculturalism operates in everyday, gustatory life. Much like the way that Hawaiʻi’s “melting pot” became an aspiration – albeit a complicated one – for the future of American society, shave ice coheres nationalist renditions of U.S. “Hawaiian” subjectivity through food: for all of its specificity to Hawaiʻi’s pre-Statehood past, it has been deployed to produce unexpectedly American narratives.

Dr. Hobart is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Native Studies in the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University. She holds a PhD in Food Studies from New York University, an MA in Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture from the Bard Graduate Center and an MLS in Archives Management and Rare Books from the Pratt Institute. Her research is broadly concerned with Indigenous foodways, Pacific Island studies, settler colonialism, urban infrastructure, and the performance of taste. Her manuscript gives the history of comestible ice in Hawai’i across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in order to investigate the sensorial and affective dimensions of Native dispossession. In particular, she is interested in how personal and political investments in coldness facilitate particular ideas about race, belonging, comfort, and leisure in the Pacific.


April 29, 2019: "Rhythm, Mobility, and Visibility in the International Career of Black Pacific Arts Matriarch Victoria Santa Cruz" with Dr. Heidi Feldman, Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies (CILAS) visiting scholar. 

Victoria Santa Cruz (1922–2014) is legendary in Peru for her reconstruction of Afro-Peruvian music and dance genres and her leadership of the first social movement to combat black invisibility—the mid-20th-century Afro-Peruvian arts revival. As a black Peruvian woman, she overcame significant gender, racial, and ethnic barriers to attain prominent positions in the arts and government in Peru and, later, as a tenured professor at Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama. However, the details of Victoria Santa Cruz’s distinctive philosophy of rhythmic education and her global career (in theater, dance, music, folklore, and arts medicine) in Latin America, the U.S., Israel, and Europe are less well known. That Victoria Santa Cruz is a “hidden figure” outside Peru (despite her 17 years in Pittsburgh and countless international workshops and performance tours) is not surprising; Afro-Latin American women are disproportionately absent from official histories and international scholarship. Research is especially scant about the strategies and lives of cultural figures of the region Heidi Feldman describes—exploring the peripheries of Gilroy’s model of the Black Atlantic—as the Black Pacific, a marginalized diasporic community of Afrodescendants along Latin America’s Pacific coast.

Feldman’s current research about a leading cultural figure of the Black Pacific aims to critically document and contextualize Victoria Santa Cruz’s rhythmic education technique and to weave together separate strands of memory about lesser-known periods of her career. This presentation will offer preliminary findings regarding how Santa Cruz’s charismatic presence as a Gramscian organic intellectual, combined with her embodied repertoire of rhythm, provided her with social and geographical mobility and access to diverse populations, disciplines, and organizations. In addition, the presentation will introduce possible reasons why, after she fought to make Afrodescendants visible in Peru, Santa Cruz’s own international legacy remains fragmented and incomplete in public memory. 

Heidi Feldman earned a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from UC Los Angeles and is a Visiting Scholar in UC San Diego’s Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies. Her publications include Black Rhythms of Peru: Reviving African Musical Heritage in the Black Pacific (IASPM-U.S. Woody Guthrie Book Prize) and articles in Ethnomusicology, Journal of Popular Music Studies, e-misferica and Theatre Survey (forthcoming). Feldman is a former Volume Editor of Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. Her research toward the first book-length study of Victoria Santa Cruz is supported by fellowships from AAUW, Ruth Landes Memorial Research Fund, American Philosophical Society, and Biographers International Organization.  


February 11, 2019: "Le Mamea's Wail" with Dr. Kirisitina Sailiata. 

Le Mamea's Wail: "In 1877, the Samoan government sent MK Le Mamea to Washington, DC as an envoy to negotiate a Treaty of Friendship with the United States. Celebrated in American newspapers as “the Tattooed Prince,” Le Mamea’s journey was initially met with fascination and curiosity. Upon his return home, Le Mamea gave a speech which was met with threats of violence by the resident foreign community in Apia. The speech, angry and accusatory, grieved the decay of Samoa in the thrall of the Americans, British and Germans. In this talk, I will revisit the diplomatic mission, which in Pacific historiography has largely been deemed a costly political failure. Engaging the work of Pacific historians of the late nineteenth century, I build upon a body of scholarship that centers Native perspectives of the world and their position amidst shifting global politics."

Kirisitina Sailiata is a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Asian American Studies at UC Los Angeles. Her research interests include Pacific history, US empire and colonialism, indigeneity, and law. She is working on her first book manuscript entitled, The Samoan Cause: Colonialism, Culture and the Rule of Law, which examines the confluence of Samoan politics, salvage anthropology, and US territorial law during the fifty-year period of naval rule in Samoa, 1900-1951.


October 29, 2018: In the Transpacific Wake of Iberian Globalization with John D. Blanco. 

“The poetic metaphor of a wake - a track, or trace, left by a moving water vessel - aims to capture the double-edged process of social and cultural deterritorialization and re-territorialization set in motion by the Spanish Iberian exploration of the Pacific during the second stage (late 16th-early 17th c.) of its overseas conquests - a “spiritual” conquest that marks both the exhaustion of monarchial and millenarian aspirations of world empire and the early modern innovation of pastoral power or “governmentally” (Foucault). The attempted territorialization of the sea, the de- and re-territorializations of regional economies throughout the Pacific, and the Spanish contribution to the birth of world trade through the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade, together frame the peculiar role(s) missionaries were called to play in promoting the idea of a mare clausum, “closed sea” that fell under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Spanish Crown. But these forces propelling the role of the missionaries in fashioning a colonial culture and society also obscure the collateral effects of permanent “living war” [guerra viva] and frontierization that frustrated the spiritual conquest from the very beginning and that left in their wake a legacy of deculturation and social anomie among colonized peoples.”

John D. Blanco is a comparative literature professor at UC San Diego whose research interests examine the colonial roots of globalization between the 16th-19th centuries in various contexts including the Spanish Empire in the Americas and the Philippines, imperialism, anti-colonial efforts and the categorical dilemmas of post-colonial societies and states.  He is also the author of Frontier Constitutions: Christianity and Colonial Empire in the Nineteenth Century Philippines, among many other publications.


Collective Bibliography

We are assembling a collective bibliography based on participants' suggestions of Pacific-related works. Those interested can view (and add suggestions) at the following link: Collective Bibliography

Previous UC Pacific Worlds Workshops