From Silent to Salient: Re-engaging Local Stories of Chuukese Women

This podcasts is a pre-thesis seminar by Myjolynne Kim (Mymy)and delves into the research undertaken by her.

Chuukese history is an area that continues to be underdeveloped, and the limited written history is largely focused on the colonial presence in the islands. This colonial history, however, is patriarchal and privileges masculine voices, perceptions, and presence with little regard to women’s presence. It further depicts Chuukese women as silent, submissive and hapless. Such depictions have become widely accepted not only in historical literature but also by Chuukese themselves. Mymy’s research studies then seeks to deliver an indigenous history of Chuuk with a central focus on women. To provide a well-rounded history, she prioritizes local history while acknowledging the importance to examine the influence of colonialism, Christian missions, as well as modernization on Chuukese women’s history. In this research, Mymy argues that contrary to the prevailing mis/re/presentations of Chuukese women as silent and submissive, Chuukese local history presents women as historically important, salient and powerful. Instead of doing a linear history, she opts for a thematic approach, using Nienikaw’s tur (banana fibre cloth) as the guiding framework. The tur weaves together three local perspectives of Chuukese women as Nien Aroor (women as managers), which recognizes women in leadership, Nien Sufon (women of cultural values) emphasizes cultural values, traditional knowledge and epistemologies, and Pwochen Fanimwar (the wife and lover) focuses on family kinship and love-relationships. Nien Aroor perspective uses the historiography approach, incorporating archival research and text review. Nien Sufon uses ethnographic research and participatory observations. Pwochen Fanimwar privileges the creative approach and uses Chuukese music, chants, dance, and arts. This study seeks to re-engage Chuukese women and their voices in rewriting a responsible history of Chuukese women, and in so doing demonstrate the vitality and centrality of local forms of knowledge and locally conceived histories as valid and essential historiographical forms for creating Micronesian History.

About the Speaker

Myjolynne (Mymy) Kim is a PhD candidate in Pacific History with the Department of Pacific Affair, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs. Mymy is from Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia and her current research topic “From Silent to Salient: Re-engaging local stories of Chuukese women” uses indigenous stories, languages and methodologies to reframe a gender inclusive history of Chuuk and to re-engage Chuukese women in history-making leadership, decision-making, and public policy. She completed her MA from the Center for Pacific Islands Studies at the University of Hawaii-Manoa (2007) and her BA from Mount Mary University in Miwaukee, Wisconsin (2004).

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