Rebecca Hogue: Pacific Women Speak: Indigenous Women’s Anti-Nuclear Narratives

In 1987, an organization called “Women Working for a Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific” published a pamphlet in London entitled “Pacific Women Speak: Why Haven’t You Known?” In addition to an internationally distributed newsletter and speaking tours, the Pacific Women Speak collection brings attention to the dangers of nuclear testing throughout Oceania, specifically the testing by the United States government in Micronesia as well as the French government’s testing in French Polynesia. It features firsthand accounts of the effects of forced migrations, nuclear detonations, mining, and other occupations by the military in each of these women’s island homes. The collection also contains a hand-drawn map which includes a legend that lists topics such as “nuclear explosions,” “airbase with nuclear capability,” “nuclear waste dumping,” and “uranium mining,” demonstrating that the expansiveness of nuclear proliferation goes well beyond national boundaries. Along with the personal narratives, which include some from the Marshall Islands, Aotearoa/ New Zealand, as well as Australia, the map demonstrates how the expansiveness and connections of Oceania function beyond ethnic and linguistic boundaries, but also how Oceania is united by shared effects of ongoing environmental crisis. By offering the heuristic of “why haven’t you known?” Pacific Women Speak works to undermine the obfuscating tactics of hegemonic military and media powers. In this section of my larger paper, I will focus on the forced migration of Bikini Islanders (Marshall Islands) in 1946 for the detonation of Operations Crossroads by the United States Joint Army Navy Task Force One. I will examine two pieces of popular media, Life magazine’s March 1946 article “Atom Bomb Island” and Loew’s Incorporated’s 1946 film “Bikini—The Atom Island”, in which both emphasize the US Navy’s justification for forced migration—“for the good of all mankind.” Forty years later, Pacific Women Speak, I argue, documents and provides testimonials to Indigenous Oceanic experiences, and thus contradicts and counteracts through a “countervisualization” the erasing procedures utilized by western colonial nations.

Rebecca Hogue is a PhD candidate in English with a Designated Emphasis in Native American Studies at the University of California, Davis. Her dissertation “Archipelagos of Resistance: Anti-Nuclear Writing of Oceania” explores Indigenous Pacific Islander environmental justice writings from 1970 to the present, specifically those inspired by the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific movements. Her work has been published in The Contemporary Pacific, Transmotion, The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Postcolonial Studies, and is forthcoming in the collection Climate Change, Hawai’i, and the Pacific. This summer, as a Mellon Public Scholar, she is building a digital archive of Pacific Islander Climate Change activism in Northern California.


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