As a historian of science, empire and the environment who works across the Indian and Pacific Oceans, I was a bit surprised to be invited to consider being nominated to be the President of the Pacific Circle. Yet Roy Macleod and Peter Hoffenberg allayed my fears by insisting that the Circle stretches across both oceans and also that it includes a wide sense of Asia as well as Oceania and Latin America too. We live in an age which requires modes of thinking which stretch out of straight-jacketed views of region and tradition. The world of the Pacific has consistently transformed knowledges and modes of being. Indeed, I have found it to be so as a Sri Lankan who works on the Pacific.
I hope the time ahead will see renewed engagement and inclusion of under-represented scholars based in Pacific states and that there will be an opportunity to build understanding and solidarity across the global South, across seas of islands and watery worlds. Among the critical drivers of our conversations as we move forward, the new Councillors have highlighted the following foci: the increasing quest to find, patent and use Indigenous knowledge; the inter-twinned crises of the pandemic and the climate emergency, troubling new uses of sciences such as genetics and the status of Indigenous people in international law. I thank the new Councillors, who include scholars working across the world, in France, Portugal, Switzerland, the USA, South Korea, China, Aotearoa/New Zealand, Canada, Australia and India, for their willingness to serve in this capacity. The international breadth of expertise is encouraging as also the number of publications which our able editor, Professor Peter Hoffenberg has highlighted as relevant to our concerns.
The new Council hope in the first instance to hold an Annual Online Lecture to which we invite all members of the Pacific Circle. We will also work on initiatives connected to building scholarship among early-career scholars and mid-career scholars and providing modes of exchange which are needed for this field and which don’t exist elsewhere. We will work with adjacent Societies as much as possible rather than duplicating work.
The Circle has a rich lineage, including our past presidents Roy Macleod and Warwick Anderson, who remain on Council, and a large membership too. I look forward to learning from all of you and to guiding this ship as you see fit.