EWC Student Research Presentation: “Land, Power, and the Coconut: Pathways from Pohnpei to Europe”


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When: Apr 7 2014 - 12:00pm until Apr 7 2014 - 1:00pm
Where: Burns Hall 2118

The East-West Center Education Program Presents

Land, Power, and the Coconut: Pathways from Pohnpei to Europe”

Josh Levy

Abstract: This presentation uses a commodity history approach to trace the pathways of the coconut from the groves and plantations of Pohnpei, Micronesia to centers of imperial power in late 19th and early 20th century Germany. While Pohnpei was never a major center of copra production, its early colonial past was nevertheless deeply imprinted by outsiders’ visions of transforming the island into “ideal coconut country.” The response of Pohnpeian traditional leaders and consumers to that vision and to European demand for copra made a deep and lasting impact on the island's environment, power structures, and emergent cash economy. German colonial authorities eventually abandoned their ambitions of reshaping Pohnpeian coconut groves into European-style plantations, but subsequently reimagined parts of island as empty spaces into which the populations of copra producing coral atolls could be relocated. Connecting indigenous producers with the imperial discourses that helped to drive the global copra trade, this presentation focuses on issues of indigenous agency, colonial encounter, and transnational mobility.

Bio: Josh Levy is a PhD student (ABD) in history at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and an East–West Center Affiliate Scholar. His dissertation is entitled Eating Empire, Going Local: Food, Power, and Sovereignty on Pohnpei, Micronesia, 1886–2000. Prior to his graduate studies, he was a WorldTeach field director and volunteer, serving on Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia (2006–2008). He is also the author of a Micronesian Civics textbook with Micronesian Seminar (2008).

Primary Contact Info:
Name: Mary Hammond
Phone: 808-944-7766