Tammy Tabe: Colonial Archives and the Politics of Migration Memories

The colonial history of the Gilbertese relocation to Solomon Islands presented a benevolent account that the Gilbertese people were relocated as a result of what was perceived, by the British Colonial Administration as periods of severe droughts and environmental degradation of the Phoenix Islands. The resettlement was considered a solution to the predicament of the islands, and therefore conducted as a humanitarian assistance for the people. However, many of the Gilbertese settlers suggested that the motivations for their relocation were far too complex than those suggested by the colonial accounts. Although, there were periods of droughts, the settlers believed that their relocation was forced upon them as a result of the nuclear testing conducted on Christmas Island, which was silenced in the Gilbertese relocation history and in the colonial archives. This paper seeks to examine and analyze the role of colonial archives in the shaping of history, especially the Gilbertese relocation to Solomon Islands, and how settlers made sense of their relocation and displacement from their home islands through memories and oral histories of these events.

Tammy Tabe is a Pacific Islands anthropologist who has worked widely in the Pacific Islands, specifically in Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tuvalu and Kiribati on marine protected areas, ecosystem based adaptation, and gender inequality, historical relocations of Pacific Islands people, identity and diaspora, and climate change induced migration and displacement. She received her Master’s Degree in Pacific Islands Studies from the University of Hawaii, Manoa (2011) and her Doctorate of Philosophy in Social Anthropology from the University of Bergen (2016). She currently works as a Lecturer at the Pacific Center for Environment and Sustainable Development, at the University of the South Pacific, in Fiji. Her current research interests focus on historical relocations of Pacific Islands populations and how these cases can inform decisions and policies for future migration of Pacific Islands due to climate change; the notion of migration as an adaptation strategy to climate change and migration as displacement of Pacific Islanders; and the role of social capital in affecting the re-establishment and continuity of Pacific Islands communities who are likely to be displaced by climate change in the future.


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