On Solidarity’s Blindspots: Thinking With Bla(c)k Oceanian Indigeneity


When it comes to solidarity’s blindspots, a first step consists in transforming “unknown unknowns” into “known unknowns.” This is why we commissioned regular Funambulist contributors Zoé Samudzi and Anaïs Duong-Pedica to reflect together on these blindspots, in particular, the limited consideration of Black Atlantic epistemologies for Oceanian Bla(c)kness and its inseparability from indigeneity.

Samudzi Duong Pedica Funambulist 5
During the 1984 Kanak insurrection, insurgents read a Paris Match version of their exploits at the Machoro encampment on the outskirts of Thio in Kanaky-New Caledonia. / Photo by Bruce Connew (December 1984).

Dear Zoé,

I’m spending the end of the year with a friend who loves Mariah Carey and so I am writing to you with one of her Christmas playlists playing in the background. I hope that this email will find you rested and warm despite the sub-zero temperatures in both the places we find ourselves. Just before everything closed ahead of the Christmas weekend in Finland, my friend and I went to the anarchist café in Turku to check some of the books in English they had received ahead of the holidays. Having in mind this exchange, I remembered that this was also a space where I saw someone read yours and William C. Anderson’s As Black as Resistance a few years ago. One of the many things I appreciated when I read it myself was your engagement with settler colonialism in the chapter “What Lands on Us.” It echoed conversations that I was having with friend and colleague Milka Njoroge, a relation we share, on Black indigeneity, including the erasure of African indigeneity, Bla(c)k Oceanian indigeneity and the equation of Blackness with rootlessness in the Black Atlantic.

In the piece you wrote on U.S. exceptionalism in The Funambulist n° 41 Decentering the U.S., you mentioned the tendency “to export and analogize domestic patterns of racial formation or state politics to make sense of racecraft or other political events abroad.” You also gave the example of the maxim “anti-Blackness is global,” which often fails to account for the ways in which anti-Blackness may be structured beyond trans-Atlantic slavery. You then pointed to Blackness on the African continent and in the Pacific with Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people in so-called Australia, Indonesia-occupied West Papua, as well as other Melanesian people, such as the Kanak people in French colonized Kanaky/New Caledonia, where I am from.

I’m thinking with you from the Pacific, and I wonder why the historical and contemporary political struggles of Pacific islanders who have been racialized and self-identified as Black rarely contribute to our understanding of global Blackness?

How did you first start thinking about Blackness in the Pacific?

I actually had your piece in mind when I recently read Veronika Kusumaryati’s paper on #PapuanLivesMatter, which “discusses the specific context in which protests under Papua Lives Matter emerged and its relationship with the global Black Lives Matter movements,” but especially and essentially in the U.S.  In its focus on Indonesian anti-Black racism, the paper mostly evacuates the question of settler colonialism, only to address it shortly in a paragraph at the end, conceding that “Papuans argue that anti-Papuan racism has shaped Indonesian nationalism and state formation and that racism is part and parcel of Indonesian colonialism.” Aside of this important acknowledgement of West Papuan activists’ own analysis of their situation, the fact of merely seeing West Papuans as Black, rather than Black Indigenous people, and focusing on Indonesian racism divorced from an analysis of Indonesian settler colonialism erases West Papuans’ struggle for sovereignty and the political demand of independence encapsulated in the “Papua Merdeka” (Free West Papua) movement. In doing so, it transforms this anti-colonial struggle into a question of mere inclusion in the Indonesian polity.