Negotiating the Relational Vā in the University: A Transnational Pasifika Standpoint During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Covid-19 global phenomenon has significantly disrupted economic, political and social systems at all levels. For Pasifika1 peoples, the impact of Covid-19 has exacerbated inequities that have long existed within the order of capitalist and neo-liberal ideologies. Higher education has been a home for such discourse, privileging western knowledge systems that inform the nature of teaching and learning, and the so-called image of the ‘individual’ student or academic. This pandemic has shown how Pasifika people are not merely ‘individual’ but are inter relational beings, permanently entangled with broader collective entities such as aiga (family), lotu (church), and fanua (land/place). This article emerged from an online talanoa between Pasifika academics during the time of national social distancing. From the talanoa process, we interrogated issues arising from our current experiences of research and teaching during the global pandemic. Covid-19 discourse presents unpropitious assumptions about the ‘crisis’ from an anthropocentric notion of humanity. As Indigenous academics, we reject such assumptions. The Pacific relational-self (personhood) is pulled into this ‘crisis’ rhetoric, as universal terms are taken up by institutions. We contest the term ‘distancing’ through an Indigenous Pacific ontology, grounded upon inter-subjectivity, the relational vā, wisdom and love. From a transnational standpoint, innovative practices with the relational vā have emerged and are explored as ways of being to counter the generalisation of ‘social-distancing’ as a universal notion.