Paper Digital Humanities Australasia 2018

Decolonial thinking, digital navigation: Connecting Pacific scholars in a sea of islands (27)

Tony Fala , Stanley Frielick 1 , Marcel Allen
  1. Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, AUCKL, New Zealand

Pacific scholars such as Epeli Hau’ofa, Konai Thaman, Haunani-Kay Trask, and Ranginui Walker have made important contributions to Pacific knowledge in community and university contexts. Rooted in the quest for decolonisation of Pacific communities, these scholars articulate specifically Pacific perspectives, pedagogies, concepts, and frameworks in different contexts—with profound influences on a wide range of academics, activists, and indigenous communities across the Pacific islands and Aotearoa New Zealand. While this body of work is well-known in Pacific and indigenous studies, there is an important need to make their thought and writings more accessible to students and wider communities.

Our project creates a digital text that introduces the lives and key writings of Hau’ofa, Thaman, Trask, and Walker, examines their contributions to decolonial thought, sets out a range of themes and roles in relation to their academic and community work, and provides a framework for using their work in learning and teaching settings. To illuminate their influence and enduring legacy, we support the core text with 20 video interviews of 14 Pacific scholars and activists at the vanguard of a new generation in the decolonisation of the Pacific, creating an additional digital layer for the text.   

To assemble the digital text that presents this wide array of perspectives, voices and contexts in a coherent and navigable format, we are using the Scalar platform (  The affordances of Scalar support the main aims of the project—where open-source tools and open access for communities are key priorities, along with the ability to create a long-form scholarship in digital modes, juxtaposed with video and images, with opportunities for ongoing interaction with readers and users.  

Scalar’s non-linear format and visualisation tools also afford an assemblage of original scholarship and video interviews that creates a ‘digital talanoa’ (Fairbairn-Dunlop & Coxon 2014) for readers and communities to map their way through the ‘sea of islands’ of Oceania thought (Hau’ofa 1994).  This digital talanoa becomes a key node in a network that connects community work and activism, ideas, educational kaupapa, and decolonial thinking. These sites of practice exist independently but are linked together in the digital space of our project, thus contributing to the wider project of ‘#PacificDigitality’ (Salesa 2017).

Our paper focuses on the use of Scalar to assemble and curate themes and roles in the work of these four key Pacific thinkers, supported by the contributions of a new generation of Pacific scholars. As Benfield (2009) has noted, “the digital constitutes one of the most important contemporary sites of production of the “political.” If this is so, there is much work to be done to understand this territory, and to do so requires an engagement with the audio-visual texts, the means of production, and the reception of ICTs with an understanding of the coloniality of power, the colonial difference and the geo-politics of knowledge.”  Our digital text contributes to this broader engagement of the digital humanities with decolonial thinking and provides a new set of digital resources for uptake by scholars, teachers, students and communities.  

  1. Benfield, D.M (2009). Decolonizing the digital/digital decolonization. Retrieved from 24 April 2018.
  2. Fairbairn-Dunlop, P. & Coxon, E. (eds.). (2014). Talanoa: Building a Pasifika Research Culture. Auckland: Dunmore Publishing.
  3. Hau'ofa, E. (1994). Our Sea of Islands. The Contemporary Pacific, Volume 6, Number 1, Spring 1994, 147–161.
  4. Salesa, D. (2017). Island Time: New Zealand’s Pacific Futures. Auckland: Bridget Williams Books.