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Framing the Islands: Knowledge and Power in Changing Australian Images of "the South Pacific"

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Title:Framing the Islands: Knowledge and Power in Changing Australian Images of "the South Pacific"
Authors:Fry, Greg
economic development
show 2 morepolicy formation
power structures
show less
LC Subject Headings:Oceania -- Periodicals.
Date Issued:1997
Publisher:University of Hawai'i Press
Center for Pacific Islands Studies
Citation:Fry, G. 1997. Framing the Islands: Knowledge and Power in Changing Australian Images of "the South Pacific". The Contemporary Pacific 9 (2): 305-44.
Abstract:For several generations Australians have generated powerful depictions of a
region they have variously called “the islands,” “the South Seas,” or “the South
Pacific.” The most recent characterization is embedded in a forthright salvationist
message that warns of an approaching “doomsday” or “nightmare” unless
Pacific Islanders remake themselves—just as Australians have had to. Like earlier
Australian depictions, the “new doomsdayism” sets up Pacific Islanders for outcomes
not of their making. While the images of “the region” and of the potentialities
of its inhabitants might at first sight appear to mark a departure from the
subordination inherent in the development and security discourses of the cold
war era, the underlying preconceptions suggest that it implicitly denies self-determination
while claiming to advance it, and promotes superiority and exclusion
while claiming to advance equality. At the heart of the new doomsdayism is the
assumption of a special right to manage, steeped in old racist assumptions that
are the most difficult to acknowledge.
The certainty with which the new depiction has been put forward, the evangelical
tone with which it has been promoted, and the dramatic and exaggerated
imagery associated with it suggest that the answer may lie as much in a changing
Australian imagination as in a changing reality “out there.” This is not to deny
the existence of significant problems in particular places of the kind described in
the general portrait. Nor is it to deny the right of Australians to represent island
life. But if Australian knowledge of the South Pacific is to avoid the charge of
hegemonic and belittling thought, there will have to be recognition of the subordinating
preconceptions that continue to underlie Australian framings of “the
Appears in Collections: TCP [The Contemporary Pacific], 1997 - Volume 9, Number 2

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