Undertaking a review of the history, political structure and challenges of 27 “country studies” in the Pacific is no small task.
That the writers of the various chapters in “Pacific Ways” were selected for their expertise is reassuring, as is the firm hand of Editor Stephen Levine, who keeps the narratives concise, without restricting their flavor. Levine still allows for the inclusion of some essential details and opinion — as in the case of the potential secession of Chuuk State from the Federated States of Micronesia and the complicated timeline of political events in Fiji. The book mentions those who have been leaders in the Pacific and touches on their reputations, particularly where it appears writers have had or maintained firm connections with the region. Where relevant, writers recognize the traditional leadership that impacts perspective as well as action in the Pacific.
Information in the 416 pages of “Pacific Ways” also includes facts that may surprise those not familiar with the region or political conventions. In Australia, voting is an obligation rather than a privilege, bearing fines for non-participation at national and state levels — which may account for the impressively high election turnout in the country, rising above 90%.
If there is one part of the book that could do with improvement, it is the map featured at the back and front. Though it usefully includes the present exclusive economic zones, the map is difficult to read, even with a magnifying glass. Future editions would do well to forego the color and produce an at-a-glance map in two pages.
Levine recommends this second edition, which is not only updated, but includes narratives on an additional number of locations, as an academic aid to study and to “Pacific policy-makers and to others with professional interests in the island states and territories of the Pacific.”
He is right, and a further reading list will prove useful for some. But the style makes the book palatable for anyone traveling through Pacific countries and seeking a level of understanding of the background and political frameworks of the area or for anyone new to the region. Historical background, legends and economic information give added value to “Pacific Ways,” as does an overview at the end.
The book deserves a place on a Pacific reading list, particularly for its uniqueness in tackling such a wide swathe of countries and islands, both big and small.
“Pacific Ways; Government and Politics in the Pacific Islands” is available for a recommended retail price of NZ $40 from Victoria University Press: www.vup.victoria.ac.nz.