Polynesia and the U.S. Imperial Imagination

The enduring popularity of Polynesia in western literature, art, and film attests to the pleasures that Pacific islands have, over the centuries, afforded the consuming gaze of the west—connoting solitude, release from cares, and, more recently, self-renewal away from urbanized modern life.

Facing the Pacific: Polynesia and the U.S. Imperial Imagination, by Jeffrey Geiger, is the first study to offer a detailed look at the United States’ intense engagement with the myth of the South Seas just after the First World War, when, at home, a popular vogue for all things Polynesian seemed to echo the expansion of U.S. imperialist activities abroad.

“An elegant, incisive account of the early 20th century fascination with ‘Polynesianess.’ Through readings of the lives, interactions, and cultural productions of a group of influential ‘ethnographic’ writers and film makers—whose refiguring of South Seas myths registered anxieties about modernity—Geiger appreciates complexities within an emergent, distinctively modernist, U.S. imperial imagination. Meticulously researched, and lucid in its applications of film, postcolonial, and gender theories, Geiger’s book is at once the most thorough account of its subject to date and the most theoretically rewarding.” —Paul Lyons, author of American Pacificism: Oceania in the U.S. Imagination

May 2007 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3066-3 / $59.00 (CLOTH)