A Call For Papers For A Session At The Pacific History Association Conference In Samoa

December 2002

May 30, 2002

For too long, the Pacific people have been described and inscribed in exoticist literature as sexually available and emotionally hollow. At the same time, Christian missionary teachings have created deep confusion about morality and prescribed an almost functional if not quite ascetic sexuality in our societies.

The influence of this strand of Christianity is so strong that a simple line in the preamble to the 1997 Constitution of Fiji stating that people have the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality became a matter for vigorous lobbying by fundamentalist groups for constitutional amendment.

Such ambivalence and hysteria does not help anyone when there are urgent health and social issues that need addressing, and simple matters of pleasure to be reclaimed.

This panel is being called in recognition of queer (transgender, bisexual, lesbian and gay) activist groups like Na Mamo O Hawai‘i, UTOPIA in San Francisco, Drodrolagi in Fiji, etc. who have pushed the boundaries of public discussion and debate about sexuality, but it is also being called with a keen awareness that heterosexuals in the Pacific have perhaps the furthest way to go in terms of critically examining their "culture."

At the same time, this panel is being called in awareness of a general lack of understanding among both islanders and outside observers, of the existence/depth/dynamics of interpersonal love among islanders. This was seen most famously in Margaret Mead’s representations of a perceived lack of emotional attachment among Samoans and in more recent years an ASAOnet (Association of Social Anthropology in Oceania) exchange, where serious debate took place on whether Polynesians could feel sadness or loss of a loved one.

This panel is envisioned as a venue for a necessarily collective, interdisciplinary and multicultural effort. The ethos of the panel will be one of mutual respect and academic freedom.

The topics of Love, Sex and Sexuality have yet to be seriously explored and fully decolonized by Pacific people, so we are open to receiving abstracts for papers on a wide range of issues including but not limited to the following:

(a) HIV/AIDS I: Access to the best modern pharmaceuticals for Pacific Islanders in the Pacific, trade protection, globalization and racism, class as economic protectionism, globalization of class as a form of nationalism by rich nations.

(b) HIV/AIDS II: Invisibility in the Pacific, erasure and its relationship to racism and (racist-homophobic) Christianity and homophobia.

(c) Transgender identities in the Pacific and Diaspora (comparative work encouraged).

(d) The influence of constructed social hierarchies on sex and sexuality: skin color, mixed-blood, afakasi, creole, interracial, class, etc.

(e) Pre-colonial and colonial traditions and our contemporary options: monogamy, polygamy, marriage, polyamory, celibacy, virginity, sex work, relationships, sexuality in the Pacific.

(f) "Indigenous" and "Western" notions of sexual identity: heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, monosexuality, autosexuality, intersexuality.

(g) Down to business: intercrural, vaginal, anal, oral, nasal, aural, visual, manual, mechanical, interlimbal, liminal, romantic, obsessive, perverted, bestial, intermammary, standing up, sitting down, in the forest, in the ocean, in my hair, under my bed, you get the picture...

(h) The Public Conversation: Poetry, erotica, politics, conversation, laws, taboos, public vs. private, kitchen talk vs. living room vs. church pulpit vs. publication, what we say here, what we say there, what we do not say...

(i) Public Displays of Affection: what's acceptable, not acceptable, the subtle and the overt, social mores, the influence of popular ("Western") culture.

(j) Terms of Endearment: baby talk, pillow talk, bush talk, talking dirty; how we express our love, tenderness, desire.

(k) Safe sex: what is safe, what isn't, what are we doing, what are we saying, what are we promoting or not promoting.

(l) The State & Sovereignty: constitutional, legal, "rights" discourses and enforcements on sex, sexuality and the body.

(m) Representations of sex and sexuality in Pacific literature and the arts.

(l) Sex and sexuality in indigenous religions and contemporary Pacific spiritual practice (especially in relationship to indigenous issues and sovereignty issues).

(n) Pacific feminism and sex and sexuality: priorities of and critical perspectives within contemporary feminist thought and activism and traditional matriarchy or women-centered cultural practice.

(o) Heterosexual male issues: patriarchy, primogeniture, male passage, initiation, sexual initiation, etc.

(p) Traditional and new indigenous dialogues and namings in regards to gender, sex and sexuality: mahu, fa'afafine, fakafafine, fa'atama, fa'afatama, raerae, tikitiki, fakaleiti, takatapui, etc.

We also plan to channel papers from this panel into a publication with the working title The Flying Vagina (& other Tales and Images of Oceanic Love and Lust).

Participation in this session is thus obviously not for the prudish or faint hearted.

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words electronically by July 15 to either:

Teresia Teaiwa Email:  or Dan Taulapapa McMullin Email: 

Rate this article: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Add new comment