Colonised and coerced from the late 1700s, the peoples of Oceania enacted an extraordinary cultural and artistic renaissance in the second half of the twentieth century. This rebirth was closely entwined with newly won political independence in many Pacific Island nations, and was an integral part of the ongoing struggle for Indigenous rights in others. Galvanised by rapid developments in education, technology, transport, communication, and print, Pacific Islanders across the region fashioned national and regional artistic movements that examined the modernity that they were simultaneously bringing into existence. Exploring questions of resistance, language, tradition, and change, Oceanian writers and artists worked with and toward the new: new national identities, new regional identities, and new ways of articulating these lived experiences.
This opening chapter lays the groundwork for those that follow, as it reflects on what is at stake in bringing Pacific studies and modernist studies into conjunction. It presents the rise of an anglophone literary movement in Oceania within the context of this conversation, figuring it in terms of the local and transnational forces propelling and preventing a Pacific-driven modernity. Outlining the relationship between the major works and the far greater number of smaller pieces published in the literary periodicals that flourished between 1960 and 1990, this chapter identifies the textual and infrastructural networks that gave Pacific writers a sense of connectedness. Following this historical positioning of Pacific creativity, it outlines the ways in which the contributors’ chapters read Pacific creativity in tandem with modernist preoccupations, mapping the connections between the questions, insights, and nuances that they offer.