Critical Pedagogy and Place: Indigenous Austronesian Seafaring, Communication, and Education in Oceania

Critical Pedagogy and Place: Indigenous Austronesian Seafaring, Communication, and Education in Oceania

Hunter Fine
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7736-3.ch007
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To address potential processes of reconciliation and examine colonial and settler colonial situations, this chapter draws upon the author's role as a professor at the University of Guam within the larger Western-dominant space of academe and as an apprentice to Austronesian seafaring directly connected to cultural networks in the Marianas, Micronesia, and Oceania. They suggest that decolonization and its closely associated processes of demilitarizing involves an ontological shift through which the knowledge, testimonies, and insights of Indigenous populations are actualized in transformation-based practices of critical pedagogy. This chapter highlights ways to approach contemporary learning situations as every form of institutional learning occurs within the classroom setting and the social historical geography of the region. Ultimately, they construct an example of what critical Indigenous performance pedagogy might look like.
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To mention any structure of knowledge in the classroom is to situate that structure within the general institutional expectations of student recruitment, retention, and success after graduation as well as its community, national, and regional context. The setting of the teaching and learning described in this chapter, occurs at a public U.S. academic institution on Guåhan, a territory of the U.S. within a colonial situation of reduction and restriction, which remains in direct conflict with U.S. constitutional philosophy and policy (Statham, 2002, p.81). The island, population, and institutions of learning rely on and draw heavily from a strong tradition of Indigenous knowledge. Konai Helu Thaman (2003) notes that “as we gather to reflect on the past and help shape the future, we, particularly those of us whose identities are closely linked to Oceania, need to interrogate the images and the representations that we have inherited or are creating” (p.5). As contemporary critical paradigms such as postcolonial and poststructuralist theory encourage the reflexive interrogation of the way’s knowledge structures are used to obfuscate and marginalize certain perspectives; it is logical that we also do the work of examining those forms of knowing that have been erased, silenced, or left out of dominant social, political, and intellectual discourse. The methods of critical pedagogy and aspects of indigeneity, the researcher draws from here, are not extracurricular to the curriculum of communication studies or other academic fields in which they are located, but necessary to the learning processes of all models of thought and institutional content. Advocating for the rights of marginalized populations to move toward more inclusive sites of learning is an aspect of critical pedagogy, a problem-solving and dialectal approach to education based on the transformative processes involved in various forms of learning. In this regard, it has the potential when combined with Indigenous studies paradigms to as Thaman (2003) states, decolonizing curriculum (p.3).

Embedded in the researchers experiences as an academic, apprentice1, and community member situated with the sociopolitical field of inquiry, they argue that placed-based pedagogy situates learning in the real-world negotiations of these intersections. The influence of Indigenous knowledge structures, specifically traditional Austronesian and Oceanic seafaring on course curriculum, cultural identity, and modes of social advocacy and communication, provide the space for a sustained critique of intellectual colonization. This opens practical and conceptual pathways that link differing and at times contradictory forms of learning. As students are asked to engage in course content, they are encouraged to enter global conversations concerning the ways such content impact the lives of their communities and their outlooks concerning the perspectives of their friends, families, and ancestors. As students move through institutions successfully and enter various civic communities and career positions, their educational foundations continue to effect larger audiences. While the historical contexts of intellectual imperialism, colonial domination, and settler displacement also continue to manifest themselves in realities that uphold these legacies, so will the development of the tools and desires to resist the ways these structures are normalized. Paulo Freire, author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1993) notes that unity, a central element of dialogic action along with cooperation, organization, and cultural synthesis, “occurs in a reality which is only authentically comprehended in the dialectic between the sub- and superstructure of the educational context” (p.175). This process of fostering a lifelong commitment to learning and leadership based on the negotiations of context, for Freire, partially materializes through a more dialectic approach to curriculum content and educational practices. Critical pedagogy, in this regard, starts with a consciousness of the geographical, social, and cultural situation in which education occurs (Freire, 1993, p.109).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Space: The general background of physical environments that involve the study of its social phenomena. Social space is a way of looking at geography that accounts for the ways in which social aspects partially create the spatial environment. Discussed at length by Henri Lefebvre, who recognizes the social productions of our shared worlds as well as Pierre Bourdieu and Michele de Certeau who studied the entire relational network of practices as constructing of physical spaces.

Critical Performance Pedagogy: A practice-based approach to education that draws from the field of performance studies as well as the tenets of critical pedagogy. Performance studies uses the broadly defined notion of performance as a central element of social, political, and cultural life, which is then used to attend to the political contexts in which education occurs.

Indigenous Studies: A field of study that centers around the cultural, social, and theoretical traditions that arise from Indigenous peoples, communities, and histories. The field provides a respectful and rigorous space to learn from Indigenous knowledge sets that have often been sidelined and destroyed by the effects of colonialism and its legacies within Western education and society.

Communication Studies: An academic field that centers around the processes of human communication to examine cultural, social, and political life. It uses various methods of empirical, interpretive, philosophical, and critical methods to better understand the ways in which much of life depends on structures of communication.

Austronesian: Refers to the Austronesian-speaking peoples dispersed throughout Maritime Southeast Asia, Madagascar, the islands of the Pacific Ocean, and Taiwan. Traditional Austronesian Seafaring: Is a way of knowing, working with, and travelling through sea according to knowledge devised and practiced by the Indigenous people and communities of Austronesia and Oceania. The geographical boundaries of this seafaring tradition can be traced through the migrations of Austronesian-speaking peoples throughout Maritime Southeast Asia, Madagascar, the islands of the Pacific Ocean, and Taiwan. In distinction to Western methods of navigation and seafaring, which traverse the Pacific Ocean during the age of colonial exploration, traditional Austronesian Seafaring navigational techniques used entirely different methods to originally settle Oceania much earlier.

Postcolonialism: Rather than a period after colonization, postcolonialism, is a way of thinking and study that untangles and confronts the many ways in which colonial legacies are maintained and reified. A critical academic field, postcolonial studies, draws from critical theory to interrogate and question the worldviews embodied and engrained in society through colonialization.

Decolonization: A process by which colonies become independent of the colonizing nation.

Critical Pedagogy: A manner of teaching that encourages everyone involved in the learning process to examine structures of power and issues of social justice. Established initially by Paulo Freire, this theory of education is intended to foster the development of a critical consciousness or conscientização in Portuguese.

Oceania: A continental grouping that emphasizes the Ocean as the link between its differing regions, cultures, and nations. Oceania encompasses the Pacific Ocean and its islands as well as Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.

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