Reimagining Asia Pacific Rim

Normal, Weekender

The National, Friday July 27th, 2012

OCEANIA, as we know from Epeli Hau’ofa is not just a sea of islands, it is also home to millions of in¬digenous peoples with different cultures, his¬tories, and experiences that define them as a unique group of people occupying an imagined geography known as Oceania.
Movement in and around or outbound are constant and necessary experiences in the lives of Pacific Islanders.
Using interconnected networking Islanders are able to move be¬tween their homelands and metropolitan centers such as New Zealand, Australia, and USA to participate in global so¬cial, political, and eco¬nomic activities.
These movements form new alliances, strengthen existing re¬lationships, and pro¬mote peace, goodwill, security, and protection against destabilising forces. These are best described as imagined geographies and cross-cultural fertilisation in Oceania.
Rob Wilson, author of Reimagining the Ameri¬can Pacific (2000) offers a striking perspective that reaffirms the obser¬vations we have about the socio-economic and political activities with¬in the Asia Pacific Rim: “The cultural politics of the local are brought to bear against the global in sites in the Asia-Pacific region, arousing what Stuart Hall has called the weight of ‘a lot of little local politics.’ The local realities are brought into direct contest against the global influences of the postmodern.
The trend that Rob Wilson lays out on the table is less alarming, especially in relation to “Great Britain’s postim-perial decline as global industrial power, given these postwar decades spreading ‘postmodern global culture’ from the USA.”
Citing Stuart, Wilson points out “that erosion of the nation-state, na¬tional economies, and national cultural identi-ties represents a danger¬ous moment: the gob¬bling up of the local by the national can lead to dismantling those rem-nants of the local and critical resistance via a process of offshore transnationalisation.” Whereby “the core of national identity can be reshaped and crealized in contexts of ethnic dif¬ference, both locally and globally, from Birming¬ham to the ex-British colony of Hong Kong (where new cultural identity rallying around a poetics of the local has begun, against the apoc¬alyptic odds of 1997, to assert itself).”
A new localism de¬velops from a space that disrupts the local where the local is something that insists on maintain-ing the purity of the local and status quo as in the case of languages that refuse being corrupted. In Pacific spaces such as those in Hawaii, Sa¬moa, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, or Tonga, the post-imperial English is one that is a blend of the lo¬cal language and the introduced English from a historical past. The English spo¬ken mutates within lo¬cal registers and refuses to maintain its original form. We could say the English used in the Pa¬cific Islands is a hybrid language within a hybrid space that is to say Eng¬lish is localised within a space of colonial history and one that is postcolo¬nial.
Rob Wilson argues that: “The identity of “Englishness”-which in its spread through a global empire made “English English” into the world language of commerce, culture, and law-was formed in the prior epoch of interna¬tional finance when the world market was domi¬nated by nation-states and upper-class culture at the imperial core. This notion of national iden¬tity is being undone in a “postimperial” outreach, when London is just one of the global cities con¬solidating the transna¬tional flows of culture, migrancy, and finance in “regimes of representa¬tion” emanating from the metropolitan center.” (Wilson 2000: 261).
Wilson and Hall de¬clare that “this new kind of globalisation is not English, but American” in its mass spread, lin-guistic impurity, and pop culture-driven cul¬tural hegemony; this time around the em¬pire, the core culture of American globalisation is called “the global postmodern” and comes booming out of Holy¬wood, Duke University Press, Routledge, MTV, and Wall Street offices (and garages) dressed in “global mass culture” garb.”
Indeed, the introduc¬tion of mobile phones, text messaging, and Fa¬cebook has seen a rise in the use of English that is disruptive to standard, conventional uses that there is an emergence of the resistances to such a development from with¬in the local contexts.
“If there is an uneven feedback loop circulat¬ing mass imagery and mass communication from a high-tech core, this new U.S. hegemony, as Hall notes, takes place and spreads via “a pecu¬liar form of culture and multiplies linkages of capital, and hence em¬braces the proliferation of contradictions and ethnic/peripheral/mar¬ginal difference,” says Wilson.
In essence the Asia Pacific becomes a site of hybridisation with a hybrid language of self-regulated significance. There is much blending and reshaping of the lo¬cal with the globalised language and culture.
“Throughout the Asia/Pacific region, we can find evidence of a “counterpolitics of the local” surging up and reaffirming locality in contexts of international influx. Places driven by “Asian-Pacific” dynam¬ics, such as Taiwan and Hawai’i, are reshaping themselves into counter¬national and subnational entities at the same time, ascending into some¬thing transnational and indigenous/local,” Wil¬son continues to argue.
Papua New Guinea as a site in which rapid changes in the last ten years has taken place must consider the wres¬tling of the transnational and indigenous for glob¬al capital, with media technologies influencing such changes at the most localised levels in rural communities.
Wilson adds: “Given dynamics of high-tech-driven globalisation…we can now see unpredict¬able outcomes, manag-ing chaos and strange weather along the Pacific Rim. Australian cultural critics, confronting the global/local interface of culture down under in the Pacific, are find¬ing their own evidence to undermine the com¬monplace view that the transnationalisation of the media empires leads to a strengthening of U.S. hegemony.”
The LNG project driv¬en by global capital and transnational companies has propelled the accel¬erated development of business opportunities in PNG. With it came large groups of people from the Asia Pacific region as global capital influencing and enhanc¬ing the development and capital growth of the Papua New Guinea. In turn the transformation of local sites and physi¬cal landscapes absorb the social and economic pressures this post¬modern transformation brings.
Our discussion is to highlight the uneasy ac¬ceptance of the view that we are already absorbed into the core of the Asia Pacific Rim socio-economic and political realm.
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