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First Peoples

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Indigenous performance in Oceania: affect, sociality, and sovereignty

A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Philosophy
Colonisation Sovereignty First Peoples Performing arts Self-determination Pacific Area

How are affective regimes of colonialism, such as the discourses and sites of memorialization, recognition, tourism, and climate change, challenged and negotiated within Oceania? What is at stake in these formations of colonialism and the ways they have been addressed by both Pacific nations and Pacific scholars? One powerful way to address these questions, I argue, is through the examination of contemporary Indigenous performance.

This project examines politically informed Indigenous performance in Oceania that includes various elements of contemporary and traditional dance and ritual, installation, performance, and spoken word poetry. In my examination of these performances, I analyze performance archives, which include costuming, program notes, photographs, and other ephemera, as well as the affects, aesthetics, sound, movement, and embodiment of the performances.

Through my readings of these archives and performances, I argue, Oceania performance politicizes the relationship between affects, bodies, and environments through innovative uses of movement, space, and corporeality. Affectively overlapping and blurring boundaries between bodies, this Indigenous corporeality articulates alternative notions of sociality that require thinking through what it means to be of Oceania, and what a self-determining Oceania might look like. Many of these intentional modes of community and belonging, or, what some scholars call sociality, importantly question the ways in which colonial ideologies of gender and sexuality operate within Indigenous movements for self-determination and sovereignty. Thus, I argue, Indigenous performance intervenes into the affective regimes of colonialism by imagining and creating inter-Indigenous socialities in Oceania that at once move beyond colonial demarcations and practice sovereignty in ways that are expansive, inclusive, and grounded in Indigenous epistemologies.

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