13 April 2017
Dr Otto Heim, The University of Hong Kong
The arrival of Oceania: Ending extractivism, politics of enactment and Pacific Island representations of a good life



This paper is concerned with what Rob Nixon identifies as the representational challenges and imaginative dilemmas posed by slow violence, violence enacted slowly, almost imperceptibly, over time. In Oceania, this includes the long lasting effects of prolonged industrial mining, nuclear testing, and lately the impacts of global warming. Noting that the confrontation of slow violence questions the foundations of widely held ideas of a good life, the paper addresses two questions. The first concerns the ending of an active mindset, or attitude, that drives unsustainable and destructive development, and its reorientation toward a properly ecological attitude. The second concerns the political practice it might take to enact such an ecological reorientation at a scale that makes a difference. Both of these questions, I will argue, call for a reconceptualization of representation and both can find answers in Oceanian attitudes and responses to history. With reference to specific examples, I will try to show how representational actions led by artists, activists and educators from Oceania realize what Isabelle Stengers calls an ecology of practices, at once expanding the scope of presentist democracy and offering an answer to Judith Butler’s question: “Can one lead a good life in a bad life?”



Last updated: 10 April 2017