pacific thoughts

Ryan Buyco

“What does the ocean allow you to think or do that other concepts do not?”

In this piece, Buyco suggests the ocean can be generative in imagining relationalities that exceed the limitations of area and the settler state. Buyco considers how his trajectories across the Pacific have been shaped by the continuties of war, settler colonialism, and US militarization. To this end, he provides a genealogical disclosure (Phung 2019), to make legible the processes of Indigenous dispossession of which he is a part, as an act towards a decolonial and transpacific practice.     

What does the ocean allow you to think, or do, that other concepts do not?

It allows me to think away from the concept of area, the settler state, and the promise of inclusion by assimilation, and instead, towards relationalities that challenge such marginalization. To think alongside the ocean allows—even temporarily—a way to envision a different kind of social and political formation, one that connects seemingly discontinuous histories—as well as struggles— together.

As the Oceanian scholar Epeli Hau‘ofa reminds us, the ocean connects. This focus on the ocean’s capacity to connect than to separate locates me in a community that exceeds a nation, transforming my own relationship with the US and even Asia. Being a part of an interconnected community requires acknowledging, and being accountable to, the ways that my movements across this vast space was made possible by the histories of war, empire, settler colonialism, and ongoing militarization. It is why I recognize the Yokuts on whose land my family settled when they migrated from the Philippines and the land of the Dakota people where my parents brought us to get a better life. It is also why I recognize the Piscataway and Anacostan peoples, Kānaka Maoli, the Haudenosaunee, and the Ute, on whose lands I received my intellectual training. As well as the yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini Northern Chumash Tribe where I currently live, and the Uchinanchu, where much of my work is located in.

The ocean is not the end, but a beginning of a practice, generative of a decolonial politics not defined by or rooted in expert knowledge, but by critical relationalities.