Remaking Pacific Pasts: A Comparative Study Of Contemporary Historiographic Theatre From Oceania

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This dissertation explores selected plays from Hawaii, Aotearoa New Zealand, and Fiji that critically engage aspects of colonial and postcolonial Pacific histories. This historiographic drama, produced primarily by indigenous and diasporic playwrights, forms part of a broader theatrical genre that has flourished throughout Oceania since the late 1960s and is coeval with a phase of significant social change in the region, with the decolonization and independence of many Pacific Island nations, as well as changing responses to globalization, and increased migratory and diasporic movements within and beyond the area. Drawing upon discussions in theatre and performance studies, historiography, Pacific studies, and postcolonial studies, I examine contemporary historiographic theatre in Oceania as a varied syncretic form that draws from and negotiates between Western and Oceanic frameworks, foregrounding heterogeneity and debate. I read this body of work as a consciously critical genre that contributes to the project of 'decentering' the practice of history in Oceania (Hanlon) by interrogating and revising repressive or marginalizing models of historical understanding developed through colonialism or exclusionary indigenous nationalisms, and by providing outlets for the expression of counter-discursive Pacific histories. In so doing, these plays function as tools to help define the present Oceania, facilitating processes of creative nationbuilding and the construction of modern regional imaginaries. The chapters are structured around certain moments in the Pacific's colonial and postcolonial history that have affected and helped to shape the region more broadly, without being the story of one particular nation. Chapter Two examines early cross-cultural encounters between European voyagers and Pacific peoples, focusing on contemporary plays from Hawaii and New Zealand that revisit the voyages and concomitant legacies of the British explorer, Captain James Cook. Chapter Three explores the impact of colonial conflict through Miori plays about the New Zealand Wars of the mid-nineteenth century. Chapter Four moves away from the indigene/white settler relationship to investigate theatrical responses to recent and ongoing conflicts in a multicultural, post-independence Pacific context in which repressive social structures are occasioned by a dominant indigenous nationalism, treating plays that engage the event and aftermath of the 1987 Fiji Coup.

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