I humbly note that my course, HIS 340-J: Pacific Islands: Histories of Paradise, will attempt to achieve the seemingly impossible:
To cover 6,000 years of the history of 1/3 of the entire Earth in just six weeks!
But that's Pacific history for you. Of course we will have to cut corners in just about every corner. I am, by default of my own research interests and knowledge base, going to focus overwhelmingly on Polynesia and the Eastern Pacific, most specifically on Hawaiʻi. But there will also be significant lessons and/or readings concerning Tahiti, the Marquesas, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Samoa, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Kiribati, Fiji, and New Guinea, if not more.
To get a sense of the major historical topics and themes that the course will attempt to tie together, please see the course description by clicking on the course title (link) above.
Choosing a textbook for this class has been a very hard task. For a course like this, with its sweeping scope over all Pacific time and space, few books that I have read in Pacific history seemed suitable for use in any more than just a handful of lessons. And the books I originally turned to as potential unifying agents for bringing the many threads of the course together - books like Greg Dening's Islands and Beaches, for example - are all out of print. But if you really want a copy of Dening's classic book for your own library, here is a link to where you can buy a bargain-bin copy for as mildly inexpensive as $279.24!
So this is what I've decided to work with instead:
Alastair Couper's very recent Sailors and Traders: A Maritime History of the Pacific Peoples (2009), and John Kneubuhl's collection of plays, Think of a Garden, and other Plays (1997).
Couper's book will provide the most generalist of overviews for each week and each session, covering all space and time from the earliest Pacific Island colonizations to the lives of present-day Oceanian "voyagers" on transoceanic cargo ships, from New Guinea east all the way to Rapa Nui. Couper has a particular interest in Micronesia, and especially Kiribati, which I think will serve as a fitting compliment to my own lectures which will probably inevitably focus too much on Polynesia and Hawaiʻi. So we will get two different perspectives between us.
Kneubuhl's plays will jump in during the last two weeks of session. "Think of a Garden" concerns the mau independence movement in Western Samoa in the 1920s and 30s, while "Mele Kanikau: A Pageant" engages with the debates over tourism, and conflicting ideas of indigeneity and authenticity in 1970s Hawaiʻi at the outset of the Hawaiian Renaissance. We won't read the third play in the collection, which is too esoteric for the purposes of this class. Overall, Kneubuhl will help us enter the twentieth-century world of Pacific Islanders through very readable and enjoyable dramatic prose.
As for films, I am still sorting out the list and figuring out what will fit within the course's limits, but I do know that these four films will anchor our discussions of cinematic representations of the Pacific:
The Bounty (1984)
Picture Bride (1995)
Once Were Warriors (1994)
That's probably enough of a tease to get some readers' minds spinning. Course registration for summer session begins on April 6, 2011. New York State residents can take SUNY courses at very reasonable rates (at least compared to the rate for out-of-state students!), so if you are in need of credits towards your bachelor's degree, or if you specifically need that elusive "J" to satisfy your DEC requirements, consider registering for my course! It will be fun!