Closing Keynote Lecture

Lisa Yoneyama

Professor, Department of East Asian Studies and Women & Gender Studies Institute
University of Toronto



Genealogy of the Transpacific

The term “transpacific” and its associations to geopolitics bear imprints of the existing nexus of knowledge and power. Taken literally, it can suggest mere movements across the ocean. It may be read as a concept affinal to the “Pacific Rim,” or more recently the “Transpacific Partnership (TPP),” in the cartography of transnational capitalism which has long vacated the people and histories of the Pacific Islands. The “transpacific” also marks the predicaments of settler colonial present that need to be further articulated in the Pacific Islander-Asian American political and intellectual exchanges. Earlier, Candace Fujikane and Jonathan Y. Okamura described such fraught relations in Hawaiʻi’s local governance as the “Asian settler colonialism.” Likewise pointing to the predicament of Asian Americans’ use of the “transpacific” as an analytic, Denise Cruz nonetheless underscores, following Aihwa Ong, the “capacity of trans- to describe not only movement across borders, but also states of transition and change.” Still more, by centering the Pacific region in their analyses, Setsu Shigematsu and Keith L. Camacho challenged the ways in which such area studies formations as Asian and American studies, even when critical of their geopolitical contexts, treated the Pacific land/ocean “as an open frontier to be crossed, domesticated, occupied, and settled” according to the militarized logics of security. Bearing these and other problematic associations in mind, I propose in this paper a dissonant reading of the transpacific as an alternative to the Cold War geography. What are the ways in which we can envision a transpacific critique as analytic through which we can begin to perceive new possibilities of alliances, transborder cultural practices, and alternative geohistorical imaginaries and sensibilities?