No community is an island: Unpacking a tricky terminology using Oceanic examples


Event details


Date & time

Monday 01 August 2022


Seminar Room E Coombs Building (3.214)


James L. Flexner


CHL Communicate

Additional links

Synapse Trans-Disciplinary Seminar Series by the School of Culture, History & Language

This event will be hosted in hybrid format, with both online and in-person attendance options. Online guests will receive Zoom details once they register for the seminar via Eventbrite.


The word community has a long history of use among Western scholars studying the Pacific Islands. The term is subject to a range of complexities, a result of disciplinary traditions as well as broader assumptions about how groups of human beings and other organisms behave. It would probably be impossible and indeed undesirable to arrive at a singular, agreed definition to cover the wide variety of uses and justifications for discussing communities past and present. But if the term is so multivalent, what actually are common aspects that emerge in the rhetoric of community research? Humanities and social science research has a lot to unpack to develop a closer understanding of the range of communities we study, and the living communities who might find relevance in the work that we do. In many cases, understanding the ways that community is expressed in local vernaculars (language but also arts, dance, cuisine) will be important to refining our use of the term, particularly as close partnerships with living Pacific communities becomes key to the future of research in the region.

About the speaker

James L. Flexner is Senior Lecturer in Historical Archaeology and Heritage at the University of Sydney. In July 2022 he begins an ARC Future Fellowship on the topic of ‘Archaeologies of community and colonialism in Oceania’. He has done extensive fieldwork in Hawaii, Vanuatu, and Australia. His next project focuses on the Gambier Archipelago in French Polynesia. His most recent book, Oceania, 800-1800CE, was published in the Cambridge University Press Elements Global Middle Ages series.

This is a public seminar and will be recorded.

The recording will be made available after the event through the Synapse Trans-Disciplinary Seminar Series page.

Updated:  7 July 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, Culture, History & Language/Page Contact:  CHL webmaster