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Transportation Epistemologies: Relational paths and (de)modernizations in Fenua Mā’ohi


This dissertation engages plural ways of knowing in relation to transportation. These are “transportation epistemologies”: epistemologies of transportation, transportation as epistemologies, epistemologies as transportation. I explore transportation epistemologies in and from Fenua Mā’ohi, also known as French Polynesia, a fractal archipelago which also fractally structures my dissertation. The knowledge I share here is in relation to this place. This knowledge’s genealogies are significantly of this place, but also of elsewhere: the experiences, ideas and stories I have carried with me as a new arrival; the diverse intellectual and spiritual and emotional discourses I draw on. I engage transportation epistemologies in Fenua Mā’ohi through a methodology of “holographic circulation” and analytical lenses of “relational paths” and “(de)modernizations.” Along with “transportation epistemologies,” these concepts are new interventions presented for the first time in this dissertation.

Holographic circulation means I have continually traveled in physical, intellectual, spiritual and emotional dimensions. This circulation reveals an ontology of relational paths: transportation is fundamentally about connection, not only among origins and waypoints (“destinations”) but also among travelers, land, history, culture, story, memory, and possibility. Among the most striking recent transformations which have unfolded along relational paths in Fenua Mā’ohi are modernizations. Modernizations both depend on transportation to navigate the fractal-like structures of Mā’ohi archipelagos; and embed themselves in modern transportation systems. Modern transportation both transports and enforces modernizations. However, modernity’s contradictions leave room for continual demodernizations. These are practices and interventions of the everyday and the extraordinary, which destabilize modern orders and partially undo modern deracinations. Many of these also propagate through and embed themselves in transportation systems. I conclude that valorizing radically plural transportation epistemologies may enable radically plural futures.

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