The difference between Western and Pacific methodologies is explained by Thaman who says that most of what is referred to as Pacific studies is essentially the result of Western research (Thaman 3). Therefore there are often conflicting interests and purposes that can influence this research. An encounter between a western researcher and a person from the pacific is not ‘an encounter between equals’ and the worldview of the western researcher is likely to influence his perception of what he observes (Thaman 3).
The image of the Pacific as a tempting paradise has long been engrained into Western minds (Vercoe 36). Tourism, Hollywood and artists have contributed to this fantasy image. However, this image manages to erase the darker side of Pacific history, of colonisation and nuclear testing. Artists have attempted to represent this ‘tangled arena of encounter, conquest and assimilation’ (Vercoe 46). Brett Graham’s work ‘Bravo Bikini’ comments on the paradox of the word ‘bikini’. On the one hand, a two piece swimsuit allowing maximum exposure to the sun and on the other, a place of environmental devastation and cost to human life (Vercoe 39).
The Dawn Raids details the shamefully recent period of New Zealand history in which Pacific people were the subject of explicit racism in the mid 70s (Fepulea’i,). Following World War II, a thriving economy and shortage of labour led to the encouragement of Pacific people to move to New Zealand. Many Pacific people were allowed to live in New Zealand illegally due to a need for labour. However, when the economy started to fall, these people were suddenly the targets of a campaign to deport any overstayers in New Zealand. During this campaign Pacific people became the subject of explicit racial targeting and discrimination which ‘traumatised the entire community’ (Fepulea’i,).
Fepulea’i, Damon. “The Dawn Raids.” The Dawn Raids. Isola Productions. 2005. Television.
Thaman, Konai Helu. “Decolonizing Pacific Studies: Indigenous Perspectives, Knowledge, and Wisdom in Higher Education.” The Contemporary Pacific 15.1 (2003): 1-17. Web.
Vercoe, C.,(2004), The Many Faces of Paradise. In Paradise now? : contemporary art from the Pacific. (pp. 35-47). Auckland, N. Z. : David Bateman in association with Asia Society, 2004.