Talei Luscia Mangioni: NucleaRising! An Historical Ethnography of Anti-Nuclear Consciousness in Oceania

A cursory glance over the latticed nuclear histories of British, French, Russian, and American empires across Oceania reveals that the region has borne the brunt of the global nuclear age. Literatures examining nuclear testing, dumping, and storage within Oceania are both substantial and critical, while scholarship on Oceania’s shifting environmental consciousness and united anti-nuclear response is patchy and eclectic. Considered Oceania’s first regional grassroots movement, the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific (NFIP) has never been documented conclusively at length from an ethnographic or historical standpoint, nor by an indigenous Pacific scholar. Most often, the anti-nuclear contributions of those Western environmentalists from Pacific Rim nations (i.e. New Zealand, Australia and the United States) and those from non-governmental organisations (i.e. Greenpeace) are highlighted, eclipsing the many diverse histories of Oceanic protest, resistance and activism of the NFIP in situ (Luscia 2017). As a result of the highly visible protest campaigns deployed by Western media which saturated the “alternative media landscape” of the era, the NFIP now exists in a regional memory within “shadowy and pervasive” parameters: something that began somewhere in the 1970s which likely concluded with the end of French nuclear testing in 1996 (Robie 2017; Smith 1997). Too often regarded as a movement driven by imperial interests beyond the region and characterised as temporally and spatially ambiguous, it is crucial to identify the complex regional networks of the NFIP and trace its historical trajectory in order to better understand its relevance today and the broader flows of environmental consciousness which helped to consolidate Oceanic regionalism. This study aims to chronicle the previously untold history of the NFIP in the oceanic world of the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand, positing it as both a trans-indigenous and international phenomenon. Contextualising the NFIP (1970-present) within the conceptual framework that Katerina Teaiwa (forthcoming 2018) has described as a “genealogy of resistance”, I assert that the NFIP stems from the legacies of Oceanic resistance to centuries of environmental plunder by colonial interests. In line with Tracey Banivanua Mar (2016, ix), I will attempt to show how Oceanic peoples responded to nuclearism by “developing rich intellectual, political and cultural networks transcending colonial and national borders” with “localised traditions of protest and dialogue connected to the global ferment of the twentieth century.” Adopting talanoa as a methodology in the form of ethnographic research and dialogue with key NFIP members, as well as, a close investigation of archived documents, oral histories, and cultural items like novels, photographs, songs, performances and film, I centre individual stories to shed new light on the forces which shaped twentieth century global history. A reconfiguration of the history of the NFIP allows its presentation not merely as an historic episode but rather as a fragile and contingent process continuing to unfold well unto today. This work is imperative in expanding the current scope of approaches to environmental movements in the region, breaking down and challenging the primacy of Western models of social change and activism through Oceanic notions of indigenous globalisation and decolonisation.

Talei Luscia Catherine Mangioni is a current PhD student at the School of Culture, History and Language at the Australian National University. She is a proud i-Taukei Fijian (Namosi, Rewa), Samoan (Lotopa) and Sicilian (Poggioreale) woman. She grew up on unceded Gadigal land of the Eora Nation (Sydney, Australia) and now lives on Ngunnawal and Ngambri land (Canberra, Australia). Her current scholarship aims to chart the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific movement across Oceania through historical ethnography, braiding archival records and material objects, with oral histories. In her previous work, she examined the eco-critical arts across the anti-nuclear and climate movements of Oceania in the context of a “visual sovereignty”. She engages in a trans-disciplinary practice and takes interest in critical race and indigenous studies, cultural studies, queer theory, art theory, and environmental humanities. She is a member of Reading Oceania, New Wayfinders, and Identity Decolonisation Oceania (I.D.O.).


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