Vā Moana / Pacific Spaces session, Vā Moana: Space and relationality in Pacific thought and identity​, ASAO 2020

Organizers: Albert Refiti, Tina Engels-Schwarzpaul, and  Billie Lythberg

The Samoan and Tongan concept of vā (‘space that connects’) has been adapted and adopted widely in diasporic communities in Aotearoa-New Zealand, Australia, the USA, and the wider Pacific, to enhance Pacific people’s well-being.

In this session, we want to explore current conditions of vā that are relevant to local, regional and global constellations. We want to investigate the concept’s origins and adaptations over time and in different locales (homelands and diasporas) and how vā arose in place-based and place-specific thought and practices in the diaspora.

There is burgeoning interest in Pacific conceptions of space and vā, as relational space. Vā is being widely explored and tested in social and health sciences, sports sciences, education, anthropology and museum studies, art, design and architecture, as well as media and communication studies – most often by Pasifika people living outside of their homelands.

Proposals should address the following questions: How and when do people become aware of vā? When, where and with whom do people use the word vā, and what other words or concepts do they use to talk about vā? How did Pacific people see and understand space in their origin stories, legends and myths? How are these foundational concepts thought about and with, and how do they organise community and individual relations? How did vā become an important factor in the quest for cosmopolitan Pacific identities in the last decades? How has the concept of vā been adapted and adopted in diasporic communities, and how does it continue to shape Pacific people’s art, literature and cultural developments, as well as their generative relationships with other indigenous knowledges? What future impact could a broader understanding of the contemporary Samoan and Tongan notion of vā have for Pacific diasporic communities?

Albert Refiti, Auckland University of Technology albert.refiti@aut.ac.nz

View more here.

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