OMA&D Academic Counseling Services

Study Abroad to Tahiti with OMAD

OMAD Tahiti: Wayfinding/Polynesian Diaspora/Cross-Pacific Identity

Location: Papeete, Tahiti
Department: Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity / CHID
Program Dates: August 24, September 20, 2014
Estimated Program Fee: $4,100
Credits: 5
Program Director: Gabriel Gallardo (OMAD) and Chris Rothschild (iSchool)
UW Study Abroad Advisor: Tim Cahill
Application Deadline: February 14, 2014
Information Sessions: TBD, Contact Program Director for more information


Program Description

The program will take place in and around the communities of Papeete, Punaauia, and Faaa, French Polynesia, on the island of Tahiti. The focus of the course is to develop an understanding of the interconnections between this remote region in the Pacific and other islands that may be part of the Polynesian Diaspora. The course will use a historical, geographic, and la culture ma’ohi lens to explore these issues and to engage students in conversations about identity and place, cultural diffusion, and notions of community.

French Polynesia, and the island of Tahiti in particular, is an ideal site for exploring issues of wayfinding, the Polynesian Diaspora, and cross-pacific identity given that the islands in the region play a central role as the mythical hearth of Polynesian culture and as the source of the diffusion of Polynesian peoples (Diaspora) to islands across the Pacific. Drawing on la culture ma’ohi, which refers to an indigenous perspective on identity and connection to land, we will engage students in an exploration that traces both the historical, geographic, and mythical frameworks that shape our understanding of the key role that the region has played in the Diaspora of Polynesian people across the Pacific. With a heavy focus on cultural expressions of Self/Other and Insider/Outsider within Tahitian arts, media, and education, and traditional practices of voyaging and water navigation, scholars in this seminar will learn about the rich histories that define French Polynesia and its linkages to other islands in the Pacific, such as Easter Island, etc. The involvement of local island residents will enhance the cultural content of the course and create an environment of cross-cultural dialogue for students.

The field work associated with the course content will expose students to different ways of existence and cultures, enhancing their understanding of the course content. Students will come away with practical experience of living far from a large land mass, further heightening their understanding of the skill and determination necessary for the voyaging crews. Planned social activities (such as observing/participating in local festivals and dance competitions; participating in local athletic events; visiting ancient places of worship; and interacting directly with a variety of Tahitian residents) will also broaden students’ understanding of the Polynesian culture and world history. In addition, a new Tahitian language component designed to augment the cultural immersion of students into Tahitian life will be a rich pedagogical element that will enhance learning. The pace of life in Tahiti is generally much slower than in the US, which may test students’ sense of timing and expectations of people with which they interact. We anticipate that the cultural and the learning experience will not be one-sided. The host-communities with which the students will be engaged will also benefit from the perspectives and lifestyles of participating students. We expect communities to also appreciate the interest that our students show in the local culture and language, and that the communities will be left with a lasting positive impression about visitors from the US.


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