Tag Archives: Reviews

Interview: The Contemporary Pacific editor Alexander Mawyer

Alexander Mawyer‘s passion for Pacific Island studies is contagious​, and has led him to a prolific career in Hawai`i and abroad​. As a graduate of the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa and the University of Chicago, he has conducted research with the Mangarevan community in the Gambier and Society Islands of French Polynesia. He has also served as coeditor of Varua Tupu: New Writing from French Polynesia and contributed a chapter for the UH Press volume At Home and in the Field: Ethnographic Encounters in Asia and the Pacific Islands. As an associate professor, he has worked on research involving the languages of Eastern Polynesia and sovereignty issues, and has served as co-director of the Biocultural Initiative of the Pacific in Oceania at UH Mānoa. With Mawyer now at the helm as editor upon its 30th anniversary, and with the launch of a new website for the journal, we asked him to share his approach to gleaning and organizing the content for The Contemporary Pacific

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What led you to become an editor in this field?

What a striking question! You make me think of Borges’s garden of forking paths, wherein stories ramify, intersect, cross over and back, and all paths turn out to have many beginnings and few, if any, evident ends . . . still a few thoughts come to mind. In the summer after college, I found myself in Honolulu and, among other things, volunteering as an editorial assistant for MĀNOA: A Pacific Journal of International Writing, which Frank Stewart and Robbie (Robert) Shapard had founded some years earlier.

Looking back, that was a serendipitous moment. Still in its first decade, I happened to be present while MĀNOA was coming into its own with growing national and international recognition. I got to know passionately committed local thinkers and writers such as Mahealani Dudoit, who founded ‘Oiwi: A Native Hawaiian Journal in 1999 and who was very often in MĀNOA’s offices in those years. I was trained as an editorial assistant and later as assistant to the managing editor by the inimitable and formidable Pat Matsueda. Frank, Pat, Mahealani, and others on the staff and around at the time were inspiring for their commitment to the ethical imagination and the transformative potential of the inked page.

At some point during my first months with MĀNOA, Frank asked me to write a review of Vilsoni Hereniko’s then freshly published Woven Gods. Vili, a professor at the Center for Pacific Islands Studies, had just edited an issue of MĀNOA dedicated to Oceanic and Pacific Islander writers and writing. At the time, this literary space was almost entirely out of view for those not themselves seizing the pen in home islands and communities. I suppose my review was not a complete disaster since Frank suggested that Vili would enjoy lunching and chatting about my review. As I discovered, Vili’s scholarly spirit expands to fill whatever space he’s in and, somehow, by the end of that lunch he had more or less talked me into doing an MA in Pacific Islands Studies.

A year later, after my MA, I moved to Chicago for my doctorate and did not imagine (and, I think, could not have imagined) that I would ever have the privilege of serving as the editor of The Contemporary Pacific. I am confident that any number of other more recent experiences could be identified as part of the story-garden for how I came to take on this editorship. But in retrospect, I’m struck by how early career experiences play out over years, by how unexpectedly paths cross and re-cross, and by how the kindness of intellectual and professional mentorship was a planting that continues to flower and bear fruit.

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The Contemporary Pacific, vol. 30 no. 1 (2018)

Artwork by Maika'i Tubbs, featured in this issue

Next Show in Fifteen Minutes, by Maika’i Tubbs, 2008. The Hawaiians (1970 book by authors Gavan Daws and Ed Sheehan and photographer Robert B Goodman), 15″ x 10″ x 8″. Photo courtesy of the artist. Next Show in Fifteen Minutes is a performance that looks at stereotypical depictions of Native Hawaiians and expectations sometimes placed on them to perform “on command.” In this performance, Tubbs picks up a book from a pedestal, opens it, and folds the pages into a circus tent while singing in Hawaiian. He then unfolds the pages, closes the book, and repeats the performance after fifteen minutes.

This issue of The Contemporary Pacific includes a scholarly resource from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa Library for “Making Pacific Languages Discoverable;” political reviews covering Polynesia and Micronesia; the work of artist and UH Mānoa grad Maika’i Tubbs; and the following articles and media reviews:


Book and Media Reviews

Find the full text of the issue at Project MUSE

00_30.1 cover_FINAL_RGBAbout the Journal

The Contemporary Pacific provides a publication venue for interdisciplinary work in Pacific studies with the aim of providing informed discussion of contemporary issues in the Pacific Islands region.


Single issue sales and annual subscriptions for both individuals and institutions available here.


Submissions must be original works not previously published and not under consideration or scheduled for publication by another publisher. Manuscripts should be 8,000 to 10,000 words, or no more than 40 double-spaced pages, including references. Find submission guidelines here.

The Contemporary Pacific, vol. 29 no. 2 (2017)

Featured art in the new issue of The Contemporary Pacific by Selwyn Muru: On 9 June 2017, 135 years after government troops invaded and violently decimated the Māori settlement of Parihaka (and at the time this issue of the journal was about to go to press), a Crown apology was finally offered to the people of Parihaka. The gesture is more than symbolic: an additional deed of reconciliation, legacy statement, ongoing relationship agreements with local and national government, a development fund, and legislation are being put in place to ensure that the Crown’s commitment is legally binding. Parihaka Papakainga Trust Chair Puna Wano-Bryant’s declaration of a “new dawn” echoed sentiments expressed at the time of Parihaka’s founding. The cover image depicts two important prophets, peacemakers, and leaders of nonviolent resistance in this story: Te Whiti o Rongomai, who helped establish Parihaka with Tohu Kakahi, and their colleague Riwha Titokowaru, who was blind in one eye, and who was arguably “the best general New Zealand has ever produced” (James Belich, in Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand).

This issue of The Contemporary Pacific features a dialogue, “Losing Oceania to the Pacific and the World,” political reviews, the work of artist Selwyn Muru, book and media reviews, and the following articles:

  • Climate Change and the Imagining of Migration: Emerging Discourses on Kiribati’s Land Purchase in Fiji by Elfriede Hermann and Wolfgang Kempf
  • Charting Pacific (Studies) Waters: Evidence of Teaching and Learning by Teresia K. Teaiwa

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Review: Curve of the Hook, from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (MĀNOA)

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reviewed MĀNOA Vol. 28 No. 1, Curve of the Hook in its Sunday Magazine.

Curve of the Hook is the first book-length work in English about Dr. Sinoto’s life and work. Dr. Sinoto’s research fundamentally changed the way the world views the accomplishments of ancient Polynesians, whose early voyages are considered to be among the great achievements in human history.

In the April 23 review, David A.M. Goldberg wrote:

Sinoto, who learned Tahitian and started his research from a place of respect, represents the best that science has to offer as a discipline and worldview. ‘Curve of the Hook’ is the story of a life everyone in Hawaii should know about and be inspired to emulate as we witness ongoing threats to the indigenous cultures of Polynesia.

Find the full review here at the Star-Advertiser.

Attend MĀNOA’s Curve of the Hook panel at this weekend’s Hawai‘i Book & Music Festival, Saturday, May 6 at noon. Preview the event here.


The Contemporary Pacific, vol. 29 no. 1 (2017)

From artist Lisa Reihana featured in this issue. Dandy, 2007. Countering stereotypical depictions of Māori masculinity, strength, and prowess that focus on physical accomplishments on the battlefield or rugby playgrounds, Reihana’s Dandy, with full-face moko (tattoo) and Victorian attire, asserts a quietly confident sense of elegance and poise.

This issue of The Contemporary Pacific features a look at public murals in a Kanaka Maoli context, political reviews, the work of artist Lisa Reihana, book and media reviews, and the following articles:

  • Walls of Empowerment: Reading Public Murals in a Kanaka Maoli Context by A Mārata Ketekiri Tamaira
  • Traveling Houses: Preforming Diasporic Relationships in Europe by A-Chr (Tina) Engels-Schwarzpaul
  • CEDAW Smokescreens: Gender Politics in Contemporary Tonga by Helen Lee

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Review of Story is a Vagabond (MĀNOA 27:1)

Manoa 27:1 Story is A Vagabond, Intizar HusainAsymptote Journal features a compelling review of Story is a Vagabond: Fiction, Essays and Drama by Intizar Husain, published by MĀNOA: A Pacific Journal of International Writing (27:1, 2015) and UH Press.

One of Pakistan’s most distinguished writers, Intizar Husain was born in India in 1923 and immigrated to Pakistan during the Partition. An internationally acclaimed writer, critic, and translator, he has published seven volumes of short stories, four novels, and a novella, as well as travelogues, memoirs, and critical essays. Despite his importance to world literature for over six decades, Husain’s writing is little known in English translation. Story is a Vagabond is the first collection in English to show the breadth of his thoughtful, innovative, and compassionate work.

Reviewer Aamer Hussein writes that the editors of this special issue managed “a level of translucence through which Husain’s distinctive intonations echo and resound.” Read the review online here.

Order your copy of Story is a Vagabond from UH Press.

Browse content online via Project MUSE.

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