Conference: Transoceania 2012: Currents of Memory, Identity, and Representation Between the Islands of Japan and Oceania | July 14-15, 2012 | University of Tokyo

Transoceania 2012: Currents of Memory, Identity, and Representation Between the Islands of Japan and Oceania
July 14-15, 2012
University of Tokyo, Komaba Campus

The inaugural symposium of the Transoceania Project (Project35), a collaborative Pacific Islands Studies initiative based in Japan and supported by the Toyota Foundation will be held over two days at the University of Tokyo (July 14-15, 2012, Marine Day Weekend in Japan), this symposium will take the form of a public keynote lecture, followed by a registration-only forum for up to fifty participants, with the goal of initiating new conversations around themes of memory, identity, and representation between the islands of Japan and Oceania.This will be the first cultural studies/Pacific Islands Studies gathering of its kind in Tokyo, and we hope to have more of these in the future.  One of the biggest barriers to including Japaneseacademia, art, and activism in Pacific conversations is language/  Unfortunately many scholars in Japan do not publish in English, nor do many scholars of the Pacific speak or read/write Japanese.  However, many conferences are held in Tokyo in English, with some segments in Japanese or with interpretation.  As we would like to involve colleagues from all around the region, we have chosen to hold our first symposium mainly in English.

Though this event will be held July 14-15 of this year, I hope you will consider making plans to join us in Tokyo at the University of Tokyo this summer.  Please see the description pasted below for further details and the attached registration form, or refer to our website at  You may also write to us at

Transoceania 2012: Currents of Memory, Identity, and Representation Between the Islands of Japan and Oceania
July 14-15, 2012 at the University of Tokyo, Komaba Campus
Keynote Public Lectures by Vicente M. Diaz (University of Illinois) and other scholars (to be announced)


The recent tsunami disaster of 2011 reminded the population of Japan of its vulnerability and its enduring connection to the Pacific Ocean in many ways.  In the wake of this tragedy, many communities throughout Oceania stepped forth with offers of support and messages of solidarity, provoking a new wave of interest in Japan?s Pacific neighborhood.  However, these transoceanic linkages are not new.  The tens of thousands of islands of Oceania and Japan all share similar legacies; yet they are also deeply linked through shared island cultures that extend into the ancient past. These islands all share common roots; yet due to arbitrary divisions between "Asia" and the "Pacific," they are typically seen as unrelated. The trauma of war and subordination to both Japan and America in the 20th century, especially north of the equator, also weakened many island communities' links with each other and complicated their respective identities and histories.

Meanwhile, despite Japan's location in Oceania, its deep reliance on the Pacific Islands for resources, and its thirty years administering Micronesia under a prewar League of Nations Mandate, there is a remarkable lack of awareness among most of Japan's population about this important region and various mutual affinities therein.  In light of various transformations, from globalization, militarism, climate change, and economic tensions to popular culture, memory/identity, and sustainability, contemporary Japan can no longer afford to ignore its relation to the broader community as a Pacific archipelago.  Now more than ever, there is a need for productive conversations and collaborations between scholars and artists between the islands of Japan and Oceania.  As this symposium will be held both shortly after the Festival of Pacific Arts in the Solomon Islands and the PALM2012 Summit in Okinawa between Pacific Island nations and Japan, this will also be a timely event to build a stronger network between scholars/artists in Japan, their counterparts in Oceania, and the broader community of Pacific Studies.

The promotion of the Pacific Islands region as a vast and consolidated "Sea of Islands" of Oceania (Hau'ofa 1993) has been implemented in many countries, and it is one creative and multidisciplinary approach that can help to reaffirm connections between the Japanese archipelago and its Pacific neighbors. This inaugural symposium is planned as a first wave to spark more conversation about historical and contemporary Oceania-Japan linkages, new framings of knowledge, and collaborative intellectual and creative partnerships in the future.

This symposium is intended to be an interdisciplinary forum of scholars, artists, activists, and others who are interested in the cultural articulations between the islands of Japan and Oceania, especially the historical and contemporary links between Japan and Micronesia.  The ideas that emerge from our conversation will help to draw new attention to the concerns of Pacific Islanders and Pacific nations in the 21st Century, while exploring Japanese engagements with the region.  This symposium also aims to promote Pacific Islands Studies in Japan, in conversation with Oceania area universities where a full curriculum in this field is taught.  In addition, we hope to cross disciplinary boundaries by considering new ways of engaging Japan-Pacific linkages and conversations through the arts.

We hope to gather presentations/papers together to publish (or otherwise exhibit) as part of a special edition of a journal or an edited volume, to be available in both English and Japanese.


Though summer 2012 is just around the corner, we do hope that you will set aside time and consider joining us in Tokyo for this exciting forum.  We welcome proposals for papers, and multimedia/art works and films that relate to the symposium themes of memory, identity, and representation.  We also are very open to ideas for panel presentations, though we will also curate papers and presentations based on what proposals emerge.  We especially encourage work that is interdisciplinary in nature and that pursues linkages between islands, beyond the limitations of nation.

Registration is open to all who are interested, including scholars, artists, graduate students, and promising undergraduate students. Please fill out the form from our website listed above and email as an attachment to no later than May 15, 2012, and we will reply to you as soon as possible.

Language of Discussion

Mainly English, with occasional interpreting between English and Japanese where needed.


The University of Tokyo, Komaba Campus (near the Shibuya district of Tokyo)


A wide range of affordable lodging is available within easy access to the University of Tokyo's Komaba Campus in the districts of Shibuya, Shinjuku, and other locales.  Please email the organizers for further information and keep checking our website as we update it.


There is no participation fee, but we do recognize that the cost of travel to Tokyo may seem prohibitive to prospective participants, especially students.  Unfortunately, as this is only the first phase of our project, we are unable to provide financial assistance for travel; however, we will do our best to help you plan your trip as affordably as possible.  Please consult our website and email us with your questions.