Unsettling SpongeBob and the Legacies of Violence on Bikini Bottom

Date
2019
Authors
Barker, Holly M
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Publisher
University of Hawai‘i Press
Center for Pacific Islands Studies
Abstract
Billions of people around the globe are well-acquainted with SpongeBob Squarepants and the antics of the title character and his friends on Bikini Bottom. By the same token, there is an absence of public discourse about the whitewashing of violent American military activities through SpongeBob’s occupation and reclaiming of the bottom of Bikini Atoll’s lagoon. SpongeBob Squarepants and his friends play a role in normalizing the settler colonial takings of Indigenous lands while erasing the ancestral Bikinian people from their nonfictional homeland. This article exposes the complicity of popular culture in maintaining American military hegemonies in Oceania while amplifying the enduring indigeneity (Kauanui 2016) of the Marshallese people, who maintain deeply spiritual and historical connections to land—even land they cannot occupy due to residual radiation contamination from US nuclear weapons testing—through a range of cultural practices, including language, song, and weaving. This article also considers the gendered violence of nuclear colonialism and the resilience of Marshallese women.
Description
Keywords
SpongeBob SquarePants, Bikini Atoll, nuclear weapons, settler colonialism, cultural resilience, popular culture
Citation
Barker, H. M. 2019. Unsettling SpongeBob and the Legacies of Violence on Bikini Bottom. The Contemporary Pacific 31 (2): 345–379.
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