A Global Intellectual History of the Pacific

The history of political thought/intellectual history (HoPT/IH) is a field of academic study with a terracentric premise. However, the vast space of the oceans has recently gained political prominence, epitomized by the rise of the Indo-Pacific vision and China’s Maritime Silk Road project. Simultaneously, maritime and oceanic historiography has come into the limelight, exemplified by David Armitage et al eds., Oceanic Histories (2018). However, the HoPT/IH is largely out of step with this groundbreaking current. In what ways can the HoPT/IH be updated, revised or transformed if we take the seas and oceans seriously? In this collaborative research, for which I serve as the principal investigator, we consider this question with a particular focus on the Pacific Ocean.

Our point of departure is that the Pacific Ocean is a geo-cultural entity, historically drawning an assemblage of distinctive visions, imaginaries, projects and representations. It has been a world crucible of variegated visions and interpretations derived from different regions of the globe, from the West to small local islands. Accounts of this ocean have been constantly reassessed and contested, but also intermixed and hybridized in ways that can produce new meanings and imaginaries of it. We seek to unearth some of the most significant aspects of such ideological entanglements.