Reimagining the American Pacific

From South Pacific to Bamboo Ridge and Beyond

Reimagining the American Pacific

New Americanists

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Book Pages: 320 Illustrations: Published: July 2000

Author: Rob Wilson

American Studies, Asian Studies, Australia/New Zealand/Oceania

In this compelling critique Rob Wilson explores the creation of the “Pacific Rim” in the American imagination and how the concept has been variously adapted and resisted in Hawai‘i, the Pacific Islands, New Zealand, and Australia. Reimagining the American Pacific ranges from the nineteenth century to the present and draws on theories of postmodernism, transnationality, and post-Marxist geography to contribute to the ongoing discussion of what constitutes “global” and “local.”
Wilson begins by tracing the arrival of American commerce and culture in the Pacific through missionary and imperial forces in the nineteenth century and the parallel development of Asia/Pacific as an idea. Using an impressive range of texts—from works by Herman Melville, James Michener, Maori and Western Samoan novelists, and Bamboo Ridge poets to Baywatch, films and musicals such as South Pacific and Blue Hawaii, and native Hawaiian shark god poetry—Wilson illustrates what it means for a space to be “regionalized.” Claiming that such places become more open to transnational flows of information, labor, finance, media, and global commodities, he explains how they then become isolated, their borders simultaneously crossed and fixed. In the case of Hawai’i, Wilson argues that culturally innovative, risky forms of symbol making and a broader—more global—vision of local plight are needed to counterbalance the racism and increasing imbalance of cultural capital and goods in the emerging postplantation and tourist-centered economy.
Reimagining the American Pacific leaves the reader with a new understanding of the complex interactions of global and local economies and cultures in a region that, since the 1970s, has been a leading trading partner of the United States. It is an engaging and provocative contribution to the fields of Asian and American studies, as well as those of cultural studies and theory, literary criticism, and popular culture.


“[A] very insightful and important analysis of the American Pacific . . . .” — Morris Young , Journal of Asian American Studies

“[A]n excellent critique of the vagueness and hegemonic intentions behind the recent constructions of the ‘Asia-Pacific.’” — Adam McKeown , Journal of Asian Studies

“As an introduction to an exciting and emerging literary scene, a reader could not ask for a much more exhaustive survey.” — Juliana Spahr , Jacket

“This book is a product of the tangled and overlapping multicultural voices it attempts to track. In it one hears a cacophony of voices, from the Hawaiian kings invoked in indigenous shark god poetry to Elvis’s ‘Blue Hawaii’ to the Asian-American pastoral verse of the pineapple plantations. . . . [T]he knotted whole is greatly evocative of place and literature in contemporary Hawaii.” — Sean Kingston , TLS

“Unhappy with American cultural icons strewn about the global landscape like so many discarded consumer items, Wilson speaks to the merits of regional identity of place, and warns against Americanization as a form of ‘Trojan nationalism,’ ready to undermine indigenous images of self. he offers both a critique and a lamentation in a poetic call for a ‘reimagined’ Hawaii (as well as other Pacific locations), to bring about the return of local cultural identity.” — S. Prisco III , Choice

"[A]n impressive display of readings across several genres and disciplines from cultural studies. . . . Wilson makes an important contribution to literary criticism and cultural studies by privileging Hawai’i authors whose works have had limited currency. It’s an excellent resource for learning more about the local Honolulu literary scene. . . . This book is worth the read. . . ." — Katerina Teaiwa , Cultural Studies Review

"[R]efreshing and invigorating. . . . This book is highly recommended for anyone interested in American studies, Asian American studies, Asian studies, postcolonial studies and/or a good, refreshing, read." — David Palumbo-Liu , Interventions

"[T]he most provocative and stimulating book-length intervention into the contested terrain of cultural poetics in Hawai'i written to date. . . ." — Paul Lyons , American Literary History

"[T]his book is a fascinating read. . . . The book contains valuable insights not only into the Pacific experience but also into how researchers can critically evaluate the way all regions have been, and continue to be, constructed by the dynamic interplay of local and global imaginings." — Jeffrey Sasha Davis , Cultural Geographies

"What Wilson has given us is a detailed, engaging literary geography of Hawai’i. . . . Reimagining the American Pacific will provide an excellent jumping-off point for scholars intrigued by Hawai’i’s radical mix of politics and art." — Susan M. Schultz , Contemporary Pacific

“At ease with the interface of the local and global, Rob Wilson flies in and out of Asia and the Pacific. As he rediscovers and redefines the continent, islands and waters, he constantly rereads America. Such a geographic venture is also an exercise in de-disciplining. Circulating freely among literature, culture, economics, politics, history, and media, Wilson’s imagination and judgment are shrewd, sardonic, zestful, zany, and delightful. Reimagining the American Pacific is a thoroughly rewarding book.” — Masao Miyoshi, University of California, San Diego

“Lyrical and disruptive, Wilson's book masterfully dismantles multiple and contradictory imaginings of "the Pacific" and recovers the psychic longings, material histories, and politics that have variously produced the modern "Asia Pacific." This book wrenches American studies out of any lingering continent-bound complacency, gives a much needed broader scope to Asian American studies, and discloses crucial blind-spots in Asian area studies. Highly recommended for scholars in all these areas, as well as cultural studies in general.” — David Palumbo-Liu, author of Asian/American: Historical Crossings of a Racial Frontier


Availability: In stock
Price: $27.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Rob Wilson is Professor of Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the author of numerous books including American Sublime: The Genealogy of a Poetic Genre and several volumes of poetry, and coeditor of Global/Local: Cultural Production and the Transnational Imaginary and of Asia/Pacific as Space of Cultural Production, both published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface: Searching for “the Local”: Hawai‘i as Miss Universe?

Introduction: “How Did You Find America?”: On Becoming Asia/Pacific

1. Imagining “Asia-Pacific” Today: Forgetting Colonialisms in the Magical Waters of the Pacific

2. American Trajectories into Hawai‘i and the Pacific: Imperial Mappings, Postcolonial Contestations

3. Megatrends and Micropolitics in the American Pacific: Tracing Some “Local Motions” from Mark Twain to Bamboo Ridge

4. Blue Hawai‘i: Bamboo Ridge as “Critical Regionalism”

5. Bloody Mary Meets Lois-Ann Yamanaka: Imagining Hawaiian Locality, from South Pacific to Bamboo Ridge and Beyond

6. Shark God on Trial: Invoking Chief Ka-lani-o‘pu‘u in the Local/Indigenous/American Struggle for Place

7. Good-Bye Paradise: Theorizing Place, Poetics, and Cultural Production in the American Pacific

8. Becoming Global and Local in the U.S. Transnational Imaginary of the Pacific

9. Postmodern X: Honolulu Traces

Coda: Part Italian, Part Many Things Else: Creating “Asia/Pacific” along a Honolulu-Taipei Line of Flight

Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2523-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2500-0
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