Emergent Voices of (Neo)colonial Resistance: The Contemporary Literatures, Cultures, and Histories of “Micronesia”
Up until recently, Micronesia has occupied an “absent” place within Oceanic studies. This absence has been characterized in part by a dearth of published literature produced by and about Micronesia’s indigenous peoples. It is only within the last ten to fifteen years that a handful of authors have emerged to depict Micronesian culture from within. This dissertation focuses on the works of three writers who have made important contributions to this expanding body of literature: Robert Barclay (Meļaļ), Craig Santos Perez (from unincorporated territory series), and Emelihter Kihleng (My Urohs). As I argue, the emergence of these authors is closely connected to Micronesia’s complex colonial histories. The prominence of U.S. strategic military interests, in particular, has postponed processes of decolonization in the region, resulting in a similar delay in the formation of Micronesians’ literary traditions. This project seeks to amplify Micronesia’s new voices of resistance, as well as to explore the interrelationships between culture and the political-economic transformations undergirding them. Another objective of this dissertation is to reveal the newest mechanisms of colonial control underway in Oceania. While hailing from different parts of Micronesia, the texts examined share much in common in their representation of themes of militarization, colonialism, and neocolonialism. Reading literature as “symptoms” of the political-economic realities that produced them, I argue that Meļaļ, from unincorporated territory, and My Urohs foreground the increasingly insidious, economic as well as environmental forms assumed by 21st century colonialism.
Since this project is ultimately concerned with how culture reflects (and responds to) political and economic realities, each chapter tends to privilege these realities as fundamental. While Chapter One discusses the historical causes for Micronesia’s delayed literary renaissance, Chapter Two examines Barclay’s novel, Meļaļ, to uncover the Compact of Free Association as a vital tool of U.S. neocolonialism. Turning to Kihleng’s poetry, Chapter Three shows how U.S. “colonial” food has perpetuated economic dependency between Micronesia and the U.S. Finally, Chapter Four, which focuses on Perez’s “long poetry,” argues that the from unincorporated territory series contributes to the radical revision of Guahån’s histories of colonialism and militarization from below.