Melanesia’s Way: Black Internationalism and Diaspora in the South Pacific


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars




For residence at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study during academic year 2017-2018


Melanesia’s Way explores Black internationalism in the South Pacific. In the era of decolonization, ideas of Black Power, African American freedom struggles, Pan-Africanism, Negritude, and African/Caribbean nationalism streamed across the region through travelers and media. Melanesian women and men engaged these experiences in their movements for self-determination across Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, New Caledonia, West Papua, and Australia. Scholars and artists produced a fabulous corpus of political culture and liberation theology, transforming “Melanesia” into an identifier of Black transnationalism. Amidst inevitable tensions of distance, time, and experience, activists participated in meetings such as Atlanta’s Congress of African Peoples (1970), Nigeria’s Festival of Black Arts (1977), Tanzania’s Sixth Pan-African Congress (1974), and Fiji’s Pacific Women’s and Nuclear Free Conferences (1975). Using newspapers, archives, literature, and oral histories, this project details how Melanesia became part of a radical Black Diaspora that spanned the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Ocean worlds.