Nicholas Thomas, "Voyagers: The Settlement of the Pacific" (Apollo, 2020)


In Voyagers: The Settlement of the Pacific (Apollo, 2020), the distinguished anthropologist Nicholas Thomas tells the story of the peopling of the Pacific. In clear, accessible language Thomas shows us that most Pacific Islanders are in fact 'inter-islanders', or people defined by their movement across the ocean and between islands, rather than 'trapped' in islands in a far sea. Thomas also described the European discovery of the Pacific, and emphasizes the role Pacific Islanders  played in teaching European explorers about the Pacific. 'European' knowledge of the Pacific, Thomas claims, was very much 'intercultural' and relied on indigenous Pacific knowledge of the region.

In this episode of the podcast, Nick sits down with Alex Golub to discuss his book and the history of the Pacific. They talk about the influence of Epeli Hau‘ofa's writings on Nick's concept of 'inter-islanders' and discuss the complexities of intercultural contact in the nineteenth century Pacific which are exemplified by 'Tupaia's Chart' -- the map made for Captain Cook by Tupaia, the Tahitian navigator who led Cook to Aotearoa/New Zealand. Overall, Voyagers is an excellent introduction to Pacific history which can be read by anyone with an interest in the Pacific.

Associate professor of anthropology, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

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Alex Golub

Alex Golub is associate professor of anthropology, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

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