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The People’s Pacific: Trans-Pacific Solidarity and Alliances in the Age of Obama’s Pivot

March 4, 2013 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm  |  


In his landmark essay, “The American Century” (1941), in which he argued against the foolishness of “isolationist sterility” given the rise of the United States as “the most powerful and most vital nation in the world,” Henry Luce, the China-born son of American missionaries, predicted that “in the decades to come,” Asia would “be worth to us four, five, ten billions of dollars a year.” In order to harness precisely this potential, Luce advised, ”we have to decide whether or not we shall have for ourselves and our friends freedom of the seas—the right to go with our ships and our ocean-going airplanes where we wish, when we wish, and as we wish.” Echoes of Luce’s hegemonic blueprint for U.S. twentieth-century power projection in Asia would reverberate—several decades later—in then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s October 2011 policy plan, “America’s Pacific Century,” which identified the Asia-Pacific region as the most critical sphere of twenty-first century U.S. influence. Addressing a war-weary American public, Clinton pledged that the United States would remain a key “Pacific power.” Not only would the United States refuse to draw down its military commitments in Asia and the Pacific but also it would “pivot” (from the Middle East) and concentrate its military resources in the region.

Against hegemonic U.S. designs that map the region as an “empire of bases” (Chalmers Johnson) aimed at containing China, this year’s Pacific Seminar undertakes as its focus critical contemporary counter-imaginaries that chart the power of the region from below—as a “people’s Pacific” (Walden Bello), a “sea of islands” (Epeli Hau’ofa), and an oceanic commons. Focusing on the urgency of trans-Pacific solidarity and alliances between and among site-specific struggles, the Pacific Seminar this year brings together three public intellectuals and activist-scholars who will present on their work and with whom we will engage in collective conversation: Kuan-Hsing Chen (National Chiao Tung University), the founder of Inter-Asia Cultural Studies and the driving force behind the Modern Asian Thought project; Keith Camacho (UCLA), a Chamorro scholar from the Marianas Islands and a key theorist of U.S. militarism in the Pacific; and Koohan Paik (International Forum Group), a grassroots anti-base activist and a founder of Moana Nui whose political work has focused on Hawai’i, Guam, and Korea.

As in past years, this year’s Pacific Seminar will be run as a workshop and the following readings will be circulated in advance:

  • • Kuan-Hsing Chen, “De-Imperialization: Club 51 and the Imperialist Assumption of Democracy” (2010)
  • • Keith Camacho, “After 9/11: Militarized Borders and Social Movements in the Mariana Islands” (2012)
  • • Koohan Paik and Jerry Mander, “Blowback in the Pacific” (2012)
  • • Walden Bello, “From American Lake to a People’s Pacific in the Twenty-First Century” (2010)

Please contact Christine Hong ( for readings and with any questions. This event is sponsored by the Institute for Humanities Research (UC Santa Cruz) and the Townsend Working Group on Asian Cultural Studies (UC Berkeley).


March 4, 2013
8:00 am - 5:00 pm


Santa Cruz, CA 95064 United States