Creative Projects Towards Nuclear Disarmament: Revisiting Oceanian Nuclear Weapons Testing Through Indigenous Hawaiian Epistemology
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Nuclear weapons testing is one of the most defining aspects of the postwar history of Oceania. Conducted by US and French military in the Marshall Islands and French-occupied Polynesia, respectively, the repercussion of the tests shape today’s lived experiences, while contemporary militarisation continues to cause further environmental and social damage. This research focuses on a range of textual and visual projects from the wider Pacific: a socially oriented interview project, a memorial, a video art installation and a video poem. I explore how the responses of these works to Oceanian nuclear histories can function as a contribution towards ongoing efforts to disarm and demilitarise the region. Indigenous Hawaiian epistemology, as discussed by Hawaiian researcher Manulani Aluli-Meyer, guides the exploration of the selected creative works. For Aluli-Meyer, Hawaiian epistemology involves three distinctive ideas: conceiving of knowledge as an epistemological triangulation, the foundational pillars of Hawaiian knowledge and the intelligence of aloha. She positions the triangulation of knowledge as incorporating embodied, mental and spiritual ways of knowing, which also constitute the basis for holistic knowledge. For Aluli-Meyer knowledge that engages all three faculties of the body, mind and spirit is deemed holistic. Within my research, I am interested in how the triangulation of knowledge can function to challenge objective empiricism. This challenge, in turn, emphasises equally engaging all three facets of the body, mind and spirit when encountering the creative works selected for this thesis. The foundational pillars of Hawaiian knowledge value relational ways of knowing. My research is concerned with how the relationships that are formed through the selected creative works enable and contextualise knowledge, which establishes and cultivates viewers’ connections to locations and people involved in Oceanian nuclear testing. Such relational and contextual specificities function to undermine the dominant narratives of nuclear states that falsely universalise and appropriate lived experiences of the testing. Connection to land, particularly place, is a recurring theme in this research. Land holds and produces knowledge; irradiation and displacement from land thus signifies more than a disconnect from a physical homeland. The selected projects reclaim connections to land, which helps to reverse the various forms of erasure that nuclear weapons testing has inflicted on Oceanian communities. Both the triangulation of knowledge and the foundational pillars of Hawaiian knowledge are grounded in the intelligence of aloha. Aluli-Meyer positions aloha as the principle of compassion, empathy and care. Knowledge that is formed through aloha is an enduring kind of knowledge, which enables the continuation of past, current and future life. This research simultaneously explores how this Hawaiian epistemological framework leads to ways of knowing that are conducive to the ongoing work of nuclear disarmament. Ultimately, this thesis takes the position that the textual and visual projects examined serve as sources of knowledge that contribute towards the demilitarisation of Oceania by practising the principle of aloha.