Workshop Symposium: Political Life Writing in the Pacific Islands (Report)

by Co-Convenors: Brij V Lal and Jack Corbett.

On 18 October 2012 the first Workshop Symposium on Political Life Writing in the Pacific Islands was held at the Australian National University. The conference was co-hosted by the College of Asia and the Pacific’s department of Pacific and Asian History and the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program (SSGM).

The conference was opened by Professor Lal and the first papers were presented by former Deputy Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Sethy Regenvanu, and former Minister and Leader of the Opposition in Papua New Guinea, Dame Carol Kidu, who both reflected on the process of writing autobiography and the need to encourage Pacific leaders to record their stories as an integral part of their respective national histories.

The conference also heard from distinguished academic life writers, including Deryck Scarr, the author of three biographies including lives of the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, and his mentor Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, and Clive Moore who edited inaugural Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Sir Peter Kenilorea’s autobiography, and is currently working with former Governor-General of Solomon Islands, Sir Nathaniel Weana, on his book. Other presenters included Christopher Chevalier, Areti Metuamate, Nicole Haley, Ceridwen Spark, Jonathon Ritchie, Doug Munro and Sam Alasia.

Papers addressed the experience of writing political life history in the Pacific Islands with presenters reflecting on how they went about constructing a story and the impact this process had on them. Key themes included narrative and identity formation, storytelling and memory, ethics and research integrity, style and audience, and future challenges and disciplinary significance of the genre, both as it relates to traditional mediums of autobiography and biography but also collective studies, dictionary projects and edited collections.

The convenors would like thank all of the presenters and audience members for their contributions to what was a stimulating and informative day. They also wish to acknowledge the generous sponsorship provided by the Department of Pacific and Asian History and the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program.

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