American Studies | Topics in Interdisciplinary American Studies Topic: The United States and the Pacific
A350 | 25013 | Christine Skwiot


(3 cr.) This course explores the historic relationships between the
U.S., Pacific Islands, and Oceania through art, dance, film,
literature, music, popular culture, and travelogues. Whereas Euro-
Americans have tended to view the vast Pacific as a largely empty
space dotted with tiny islands, Oceanians have lived in a more
intimate and interconnected “sea of islands.”  Early U.S. explorers,
seafarers, and whalers indeed relied on the skills of Islanders to
navigate, sail, and come to “know” the Pacific.  We will begin
examining the voyaging and settlement of Oceania, the cosmologies,
societies, and interactions among diverse Pacific peoples centuries
before anyone ever imagined a United States.  We will then move to
and beyond the “beach” to explore the cross-cultural exchanges and
both intimate and violent relationships between Americans and
Oceanians, “fatal impacts” and ecological imperialism, trading posts
and mission stations, plantation regimes and Asian migration, and
the dynamics of a multiplicity of colonial incursions and
anticolonial resistances.  These voyages will take us to Guam,
Hawai‘i, Micronesian and Marshallese Islands, Samoa, and Tonga.  We
will study the redrawing of the mental and material maps and the
spaces and places of the Pacific during and after World War II and
consider Islanders in the Pacific War, nuclear testing and protest,
tourism and theme parks, cargo cults and anthropology, Pacific
Islanders in the U.S., new diasporic identities, neocolonialism and
sovereignty movements, “new” Native literature and art, and the
contemporary meanings of “traditional” ideologies and practices.