Framing the Islands: Knowledge and Power in Changing Australian Images of 'The South Pacific'

Author/s (editor/s):

Greg Fry

Publication year:


Publication type:

Working paper

Find this publication at:
IR Working Paper 1996/5 (PDF, 5.24MB)

Greg Fry, 'Framing the Islands: Knowledge and Power in Changing Australian Images of "the South Pacific"', IR Working Paper 1996/5, Canberra: Department of International Relations, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University, September 1996.

A new and powerful set of images of the South Pacific, and of Pacific islanders, has recently come to prominence within Australia. The images are embedded in a forthright salvationist message which warns of an approaching 'doomsday' or 'nightmare' unless Pacific islanders remake themselves - just as Australians have had to do. This 'new doomsdayism' forms part of a longstanding Australian practice of 'framing' Pacific island peoples in three senses: firstly, of drawing geographical boundaries around them for purposes of making generalisations; secondly, of intending to shape the lives of the people so bounded; and thirdly, in the colloquial sense, of setting them up for outcomes not of their making.

This paper explores how we should judge the exercise of power inherent in this latest Australian representation of the Pacific Islands; in particular, whether it marks a departure from the subordinating knowledge associated with the 'smallness' notion of the Cold War years. The paper argues that, while the new doomsdayism's images of the region and of the potentialities of its inhabitants might at first sight appear to mark such a departure, the underlying preconceptions continue the subordination inherent in the development and security discourses of the Cold War era.

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