Vā Moana: space and relationality in Pacific thought and identity
The organising and energising concept at the centre of this project is the notion of vā as relational space, which, in the diaspora, has been adapted to particular contexts in the last decades. Consequently, it has begun to influence policy and legal frameworks, alongside other key Māori and Pacific concepts, to enhance Pasifika people’s well-being in relation with each other and Tāngata Whenua.
This research empirically documents and conceptually investigates current conditions of vā and related notions that are relevant to local, regional and global constellations. We rigorously examine the concepts’ origins and adaptations over time and in different locales (homelands and diasporas), particularly through a sustained investigation of their enactment and re-imagination in contemporary urban environments. We investigate how concepts grouped together in Aotearoa-New Zealand as vā arose in place-based and place-specific thought and practices. Concurrently, the project explores how the articulation of vā in art, architecture, Pacific studies and other fields contributes to diasporic identity and community formation in Aotearoa-New Zealand, and how it is kept in generative relationships with mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge systems). We aim to produce an extensive new analysis and synthesis of current notions of vā and other models of diasporic concepts based on customary notions of place and space, and to explore their relevance for Pasifika futures in Aotearoa-New Zealand.
This research project has been generously funded through a Marsden grant (2019-2022).
Researchers: Tina Engels-Schwarzpaul, Albert Refiti, Lana Lopesi and Rosanna Raymond.
Associate investigators: Dr ‘Okusitino Mahina (Vava‘u Academy for Critical Inquiry and Applied Research, Vava‘u, Tonga), Dr Billie Lythberg (U of Auckland—Te Whare Wānanga o Tāmaki Makaurau), Dr Ty Tengan (University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, USA) and Dr Brett Graham (Ngati Koroki Kahukura multimedia artist).