Agora-SHS Ateliers gouvernance et recherche Appliquée
Nouméa, lundi 17 juin 2024

Sciences Sociales Nouvelle Calédonie Sciences Humaines

D’ARCY, Paul

Senior Fellow, Division of Pacific and Asian History, RSPAS, ANU.

Beyond Mutual Awareness : Opportunities for greater integration between Francophone and Anglophone Pacific Scholarship

I am currently compiling a comparative survey of scholarship on Francophone and Anglophone Oceania. Interactions between scholars of the French and English speaking Pacific worlds generally take the form of intellectual crossovers, collaboration, or comparisons. The brief survey that follows of interactions in the recent past and niches for advanced integration in the near future produced surprising results in that the first form is most common and the last least common. The paper suggests that this is surprising because the mastery of another region across a Pacific language divide involved in crossovers is perhaps the most difficult task, while the comparing the familiar within a scholar’s language area of the Pacific with similar areas or processes across the South Pacific language divide associated with comparisons is potentially the easiest task as it is grounded in the familiar, can be built around familiar frameworks of investigation, and may be collaborative and potentially fragmented to start with.

It is important to preface this survey of French-English scholastic interaction by stating the obvious - such interactions are not the norm : most scholars of the pacific stay comfortably enclosed within their atolls of knowledge to borrow Oscar Spate’s wonderful metaphor - in that their studies remain either rooted within their primary discipline or first language areas. That said, it is interesting then that crossovers, bilingual scholars studying Pacific Island communities in areas outside of their original language/cultural zone of the Francophone-Anglophone divide are the most common interaction today and in the recent past. I suspect it is no coincidence that such scholars also move comfortably between different disciplines - Serge Tcherkézoff and Bronwen Douglas move with ease between history and anthropology for example while writing penetratingly on Samoa and New Caledonia respectively as well as on other parts of the Pacific and Oceania-wide thematic topics. They and others such as Dave Chappell and Adrian Muckle apply their experiences elsewhere to advance fresh perspectives : Chappell’s life in Hawai’i and peace corps work in French West Africa reflect to me in his attentiveness to the mixing of themes of modernization, cosmopolitanism and tradition, while Muckle’s New Zealand upbringing and training makes him far more attuned to indigenous sensitivities than many scholars of his age.

Collaboration between Francophone and Anglophone scholars is less common, and has been largely pushed by the French Pacific, with Anglophone scholarly enthusiasm for the generous associated funding rarely followed up with substantial institutional and governmental largesse ! The potential for this approach was recently demonstrated in Frédéric Angleviel and Stephen Levine’s 2008 bilingual edited collection on New Zealand-New Caledonian relations, La Nouvelle-Zélande et la Nouvelle-Calédonie : Voisins, amis et partenaires. I contributed a chapter on the applicability of marine resource allocation models for New Zealand Māori to the New Caledonian Kanak context. The volume has been an absolute revelation for most readers, but barely scratches the surface and cries for follow up studies in multiple areas because it relies on a few scholars that work across the language divide either as specialists on topics based on the other side of the language divide or on comparative studies. While the momentum is in danger of being lost, Levine and D’Arcy have started to develop a sister volume on New Zealand-French Polynesian relations and areas of common interest. There are perhaps fewer experts to draw upon for this than Angleviel and Levine had at their disposal - but once the idea was raised, seeds of knowledge sprang up in unexpected places : the erudite Papeete-based Inspecteur d’académie de la zone Pacifique French Pacific, Michel Lextreyt, is a frequent visitor to New Zealand and has published a French textbook on New Zealand for example.

Comparisons, I suggest, are the least developed mechanism for interaction, yet offer the greatest room for consolidating and expanding interaction. Here the model is surely A History of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific edited by Donald Denoon, Philippa Mein-Smith and Marivic Wyndham, published in 2000. Each theme explored ranges widely across the region to briefly compare the myriad of variations that occurred in European-indigenous relations and the various forms of economic organization and social experimentation that settler societies developed, before finishing by surveying issues of identity and autonomy in the era of globalisation. New Caledonia figures prominently, particularly for comparisons with Australia in terms of convict settlements, the transition to other forms settler societies and ongoing struggle for recognition and the restitution of rights for indigenous peoples. This approach has greatly influenced a chapter I am writing on Oceania and Australasia for the Oxford Handbook of World History.

As we seek to develop a new generation of young scholars who span the linguistic divide under discussion at this meeting, such comparisons offer a solid and realizable foundation by allowing students to investigate themes of interest in their own locations and then using general surveys like Denoon et al to briefly put this pattern in a regional context across the language divide. Such a project will be facilitated by bi-lingualism, or more correctly multi-lingualism incorporating indigenous ways of seeing and expression, bi-lingual comparative textbooks, and the regular exchange of teachers and students. We also need to find common languages - it is worth noting in conclusion that among social scientists and humanities scholars perhaps the most underestimated collaborations between the Anglophone and Francophone Pacific occur in marine science where there is a more commonly understood (or misunderstood ?) language of discourse. New Caledonia is celebrated as one of the great hotspots of marine diversity and researchers of this world perhaps move and talk more freely across former colonial and linguistic boundaries than we.

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