Welcome to SICRI’s “island conversations” podcast series.
The aim of these podcasts is to highlight the work of island studies scholars and practitioners who make a significant contribution to islands’ research, arts, and culture landscape.
The podcasts are accompanied by a curated transcript that is edited to read as an independent piece.
"Island Notes" composition in Cretan Flat Mandolin by Christophoro Gorantokaki @"Melody Box"
Marina Karides is a Professor of Geography and Environment at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. She is a sociologist by training but a rhythmanalyst by heart; loving old jazz and funk. Her current research considers island societies, particularly how constructs of gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality are shaped by islands. She also seeks to understand how island spaces offer alternative economic models that serve social needs and the natural environment better than dominant economic modes.
Dr Evangelia (Valia) Papoutsaki
Island greetings. In this podcast, we will be hearing from Marina Karides, a Professor of Geography and Environment at the University of Hawaii in Mānoa. Her research examines island spaces from intersectional and decolonial feminist perspectives, something that is reflected in the island Feminisms initiative that Marina is co-leading. Her studies also applied political economy frameworks to consider geographies of alternative economies. Her recent publications, including the volume, Sappho's Legacy: Convivial Economics on a Greek Isle, address these themes as well as innovative methodological approaches to island studies. Marina, welcome to SICRI’s island conversations podcast series.
Hello, σας ευχαριστώ (thank you in Greek). Such a pleasure to be here with you.
Before we go into greater detail on your island studies work and your views on island Studies scholarship and future developments in this field, I would like us to start on a more personal note: your personal island connections, what makes you an islander, if you consider yourself to be one, and how living on an island, because you have lived on multiple islands has shaped your identity and worldview.
Okay, so thanks for that question. What I like to say is that I have an island genealogy. And so this is how I lay it out is that I was born on Manhattan, Manhattana Island, and then eventually relocated to Miami Beach, South Beach to be exact, which is also an island with three bridges. And then another major move was then here where I am in Hawaii island, and I've been here for eight years. However, I've also spent a lot of time travelling and did that as a young person. So by the age of 21, I had been and spent time and done work in Haiti, across Indonesia, particularly Bali, Lombok, and Sumatra, I spent time in Ko Tao (Thailand), Fiji, Tahiti, Cook Island, Australia and Aoteaora. So certainly, it's something for a very young person I was drawn to. In terms of thinking of how it rains, you know, my ideology, I feel, one of the things I think has always attracted me, which is interesting, when I think about it in terms of islands scholarship is that I've always seen islands as cosmopolitan and that's where I ended up doing my early research, Master's and dissertation. My dissertation in particular, to sort of tease out relationships, particularly around race and ethnicity as they intersect with gender as well.
And tell us a little bit about your ancestral lineage there in terms of island connections.
Sure, so yes, I left that one out. So my parents migrated, well they migrated separately to Manhattan. And so Washington Heights, New York, which is just over the George Washington Bridge was a Greek enclave then. Eventually, my parents had actually moved to New Jersey. And I just remember crossing that bridge, and getting into Washington Heights and thinking this is Greek heaven. And so that's where almost all our relatives and extended family lived. It was just my parents who moved to the suburbs. So my father is originally from Kerkyra, Corfu. And my mother is from a small village in the Peloponnese. And I remember first visiting there, which was older, I was actually in my mid 20s, when I first got to Greece, and I remember visiting Kerkyra in particular, and having quite a time, but someone sort of asking me who I am and then saying, “Ay You are Kerkyrian”. And I thought, Oh, I guess I am and then later on, someone identified me as an islander and I thought, wow, well, I'll take that and to me that is a compliment. I guess the question is why.
Corfu, Greece (a visit with family and ancestors)
Credit: Marina Karides
Yes, and what does it mean to be a Kerkyrian or a Ketki? They're someone from Corfu.
To me, I see islands, and I guess my scholarship from, you know, this sort of colonial historical lens, right. So learning that history and of Kerkyra, with the occupation of the English empire, let's say, and later Germany, the sort of local resistance and sort of strategies of finding small places to survive, which is sort of an island quality in general. There's also the sort of, probably more of a stereotype, but sort of festive and sort of ‘love of life’ quality that that particular island carries. It's also interesting, in my research, I spent a lot of time in the Aegean. So it's interesting to sort of see the different traits of the islands on either side of the Greek mainland. You can see an Italian influence, let's say, in Kerkyra, were in Lesbos, It's, you know, an Ottoman influence, let's say.
Yes, it's fascinating, each of these islands in Greece have a unique historical background that has shaped their cultural identities. What are some of your earliest memories as a young woman or a child going to Kerkyra, that made you think of it as something different than just a mainland?
It wasn't, I mean, I'm just trying to think about this, but really, my sense of being an islander probably arrived, when I visited Trinidad, in doing my dissertation research. I went there before I ever went, you know, to Greece. And so, in terms of thinking of childhood memories, I don't know how it applies. And it might be even an interesting paper to think about what it means for some. So in New York, the Manhattan crowd refers to everyone else who doesn't live in Manhattan as the tunnels and bridges group. Right. They're sort of considered outsiders. And so I do remember us, going into the city, or to the island, and sort of it being identified that, we left the island, we left Manhattan, so that, you know, all in good, good fun, of course. So, probably at that point, I had a sense of this distinction between spaces and crossing waters to get from one place to another, even if, its a 20 or 30 minute ride from one place to another. And then afterwards, I took a couple of years off and did that backpacking thing that people did, and found myself almost completely going to islands. So that I would say, those are the memories, for example, I remember spending quite a while in Fiji. And it was always important to me, now that I think about it, to get to the smaller and smaller islands in the archipelago. And I found a very nice spot and was hosted really generously, right as some young American or Greek American woman coming, people were quite welcoming and spent time around a fire was the first time I had Kava Kava, and really had a wonderful time engaging. Also, this is all it's so interesting because this was all in the Pacific. And I just had remembered thinking, ‘this is where I'm going to return’. It took about 20 years or so, but somehow it happened.
So the Grand one called you back? […] So let's talk about what brought you to island studies. What was that crucial moment where you became aware you're actually [Excuse me] an island studies scholar, that you're contributing to island studies, because you come from a sociology background. And you also come from a socially engaged background with some activism and contribution to marginalized communities. How does all that inform your island studies work? I'm sorry, it's a very long and convoluted sort of question.
No, it's fine. Thank you for bringing up the activist work I did. So after I graduated college, I moved to New Orleans, which itself is really, a place that requires much study from an island studies perspective. I believe, you have the river on one side and the lake on the other, you also have this very isolated cultural Mecca, which I would say is, foundationally, a black or African American culture of space in New Orleans, despite all the gentrification that's occurred, especially post Katrina. So that was sort of a first space, both of thinking about social justice and activism. I was certainly encouraged by the wonderful faculty I had at my University at Northeastern, I was a philosophy major in my undergraduate years, to go be an activist before I did anything else. And so I did that, I also taught public school in New Orleans for a while, but it sort of gave me a sense of this distinct space that once you left New Orleans, and headed outside, North to Louisiana, further up in Louisiana, or over the Mississippi, that you were, again, just like I was saying in my childhood, leaving a distinct cultural space. And then later on, I was certainly, and this probably is tied to spending so much time in New Orleans, I was attracted to the Caribbean and wanted to do my research there. And also very much interested in how race and ethnicity plays out. I think as a Greek American with parents who migrated at this time, you're at the cusp of ‘whiteness’, let's say. And so, you know, being, let's say, ‘ethnically ambiguous’, it sort of gives you these different insights into how deep white privilege is in the, let's say, the US context. So, in any case, I decided to do work in Trinidad and Tobago. I also had spent time in Cuba, doing some activist work there and was going to do research there, but my committee discouraged that aspect. And really sort of said, ‘A done dissertation is a is a better dissertation’. But in any case, in Trinidad and Tobago, what was fascinating was, again, the mixed ethnic groups that that lived there. And I was, from the start, as my research continues, interested in how people make a livelihood that is outside the mainstream and dominant economic system. And so in Trinidad, I focused on the street vendors in Port of Spain. Street vending was my, I guess, intellectual obsession for a while. And it offers very similar to my job as an academic and in ways this autonomy of time. And I found that the people I was interviewing and were sharing their stories, had very similar reasons for their career choices to mine, but clearly a different set of circumstances and opportunities, Right. And I guess, in terms of thinking about that question, is that I have this precise moment in my mind, and I was at a qualitative methods conference at the University of Georgia, which is where I attended graduate school. And I had given one of my first presentations and was talking about islands and my interest and a senior scholar, I don't know who, started talking to me and asked me precisely that question. So why islands? And I just remember thinking like, ‘Yes’, I had ‘Yes, that's what I want to study’ is islands and that was Probably like 1997 when that when that occurred.
Yes and it was since then that you deliberately started focusing on islands. And there's a difference, as we discussed in the past, between doing research on islands, about islands, and in bringing that island studies lens.
Right […] I would probably say it was probably five or six years later that I decided I invented islands studies. I Googled it, and I thought, Oh my God island studies, and then, found the journals that were just establishing themselves at that point, and then saw the, you know, learn that history of island studies in the mid 1990s. and this sort of shift going. But no, after Trinidad and Tobago, I went to Cyprus, to do my research and live there for quite a while, which also was a fascinating experience. But again, I don't think I, you know, I wasn't using all the island studies framework in this original research, in terms of thinking through, for example, in Trinidad, I was sort of looking at the tension between street vendors and the police coming and clearing out the street vendors, yet the policy of economic development, which was being touted by the IMF at the time, was micro enterprise development. And so the question, and sort of this is where my human geographer has always come out, and I had the benefit of some great mentorship in human geography, Melissa, W. Right one example. But I said, Well, what if people are supposed to have micro enterprises? Where do they have them? And so, you know, thinking through that a little bit more in terms of an island framework, could be very interesting, right? In Cyprus, also, I arrived with the same interest of a comparison, both of these islands having been colonized by the UK, having similar years of independence, I thought it'd be, a neat comparison, and again, an opportunity to live on another island. But when I arrived to Cyprus, there were no street vendors. And so, that became an interesting opportunity then to unpack what policies were created in Cyprus. And that ended up, one of those pieces ended up in ISJ, in terms of that particular comparison, and focusing on women's entrepreneurship and the larger economic policies these two nations have and had the opportunity, which created economic success on one hand, because Cyprus closed its borders, permitting its local entrepreneurs to develop for quite some time, after the invasion. So yes, I'll stop there, because I'm kind of reminiscing now.
So that was a comparative research. And there was, yes, looking at an island in the Caribbean and in Cyprus, the Mediterranean.
So that one was a comparison. And then there was a separate piece focusing on Cyprus, in and of itself, but what was going on in Cyprus, the time I was there doing the research, is they had lifted for the first time, the border. They opened up the green zone, that was separating the two regions. And so it was the ‘talk of the town’. And we had the opportunity to actually cross over. That's the other thing, in all my research trips, I have brought my family with me ... in Cyprus, my youngest was about a month old. And so it was research, just come along, research will guide our lives. Come on to the canoe. What was interesting for me is, because I did interview lots of government officials, it was also the period that Cyprus was preparing for entry into the EU. And so they couldn't quite place me. Who is this person speaking with an American accent saying that she's Greek and speaking Greek with an American accent and wanting to study this stuff, but it gave me lots and lots of access. So it was quite a successful research trip and catching Cyprus in this particular moment. I think that's another way to think about islands and islands studies is, you can capture a sense, and, you know, I took time to travel throughout the island. And there was a theme that was apparent across the island, along with the sort of particularities that you have in islands and in villages. Or in Hawaii island, we have the Hilo side and the Kona side, which are two different worlds, theologically and socially.
Hilo Bay, Hawai'i
Credit: Marina Karides
Yes. There is a very strong theme of gender in your research. We're referring here to your latest book on Sappho’s Legacy, but also your island feminisms initiative that you are working on with Noralis (Rodríguez-Coss) who is from the Caribbean. Tell us a little bit more about this gender theme in your research and how important it is for your scholarly contribution to island studies.
Sure, thanks for that […] So how do I start? I start as being an activist, as a feminist activist, right. And, I always think it's important to clarify, and I just started writing this, but those who have not been engaged in feminism or steeped in the scholarship of feminism, which I'm honestly going to say is most of island studies, is, has a very narrow understanding. And it's kind of problematic in that it sort of neglects feminism as a scholarly field. Right. And this is, you know, this occurred in geography in the 2010s and anthropology in the late 90s, in sociology a little bit before that. So this sort of initial rise of feminist consciousness has historically gotten a pushback. For better […] there's nothing good about pushback. But in any case, so, I was attending attended the island studies conference that was occurring in Taiwan, I believe it was 2014. And began to read through the island study scholarship and just saw a complete dearth of any publication dealing with issues around gender, sexuality, queerness. I actually have a chapter in the book by Helene and Firouz, Gender and Island Communities. There's a chapter in there where I basically go through the keywords and compile the data on publications around feminism or gender. And then I noticed that words like race or racism or social movement, or social justice, were completely absent. And so I lay out the, you know, empirically the gap that occurs. And so, the idea of island feminisms, that framing, sort of […] in some ways you can say it's obvious, but it hadn't been stated. And so we can call it an epiphany, I suppose, but it arrived after or through my work on Sappho’s Legacy. So that volume doesn't use that phrase, island Feminisms. And I had considered tucking it in, in the last round of edits, but I thought no, this is, the sort of midwife, and we’ll leave it there. And so, as you know, in terms of coming to island feminisms, we organized a panel in Lesbos, which really is the ideal situation, and for me would be, I wish it was an event that had gotten more opportunity from the sort of hierarchy of ISISA.
But what occurred there was that it was fully packed in that auditorium. But all the participants were women, or at least, gender appearing in that regard. And so that was a bit of a disappointment, in terms of true engagement and recognizing that island feminism is a scholarly and important contribution and not something to just be listed as an area, but something that kind of requires some deep engagement. So what what's exciting about that is that I have to credit Shima https://sunypress.edu/Books/S/Sappho-s-Legacy2and Phil for reaching out to me. And as I was working on this stuff sort of encouraging me to send something along about that, and that's where that piece “Why Island Feminism?” was published after being vetted. But you know, Shima has definitely been a reprieve in terms of opportunities to explore island feminisms a little more. And then I do want to mention and note, Dr. Noralis Rodríguez-Coss, because she reached out. The way we met was that, and now this is we're talking 2015 now, which she just mentioned, was like, “Hey, we have a long relationship”. And so in 2015, I got an email from Noralis, who was a graduate student then and had said, I noticed that you're teaching a course in island feminisms. So that was sort of, I think, the first public appearance of it. And we began to have conversations and we officially met in Lesbos at a wonderful taverna, and shared long conversation and we've been since then, in collaboration, in terms of publications, but most excitingly is our island feminisms project, which we can probably still say is nascent. But we had organized a fabulous conference here at Hilo, but, you know, COVID disrupted all that. We had poets coming in from the Pacific, we had an art installation happening. And so what we've done the last two years is in the spring semester, host a webinar series, which is attracting a wider audience. And so in that regard, we feel that what we did, is by pushing after six years, that we pushed open a space, not by ourselves, obviously, but certainly initially. So for example, we put forth a themed section through ISJ and didn't really get any submissions, not enough to sort of support a publication. And we each had our own networks, we tried to network […] it wasn't the moment in terms of maybe of island studies, of thinking through and in deep feminists conceptual practices. What I was looking for in that is more empirical cases, right, more studies to sort of broaden the concept there. And currently, we have a themed section that's forthcoming. Slowly forthcoming under COVID, but it will be in Shima. And I do believe that the selection of articles that all go through, are going to be very rich in expanding island feminism thought. And I think that's what scholarship requires, is new minds thinking about an introduction of a concept that really goes nowhere if you hoard it […] that's what scholarship could be considered, like a giving tree really.
Iconic view of Corfu, Greece
Credit: Marina Karides
Well, thank you, and Noralis for, as you say, pushing up that piece, creating that space. It's a unique contribution to island studies, but also to feminisms. And I really want to highlight that ‘S’ at the end of island feminisms. As a statement, sort of against that monolithic or Western perception of feminism that there is one. And here you're making a statement that only there are multiple feminism's and perspectives and contexts for the islands themselves blend to the role feminist lens.
Excellent, yes, that's exactly our intention. You nailed it. […] this is what I was getting to, I think I got off track. For someone like myself, who was say training in feminist studies and critical race studies in the 1990s, let's say. Our understanding of feminisms is from an intersectional perspective, right? That takes race, class, gender, other social identities, and complicates things, right? We just can't use that generic category ‘woman’ often because it is a very different experience when you are Latina, in the US context, when you're Fijian in Hawaii. There's just these different elements that play out in ways or when you're Greek in Hawaii island. You're not associated with some of the other folks who are from the mainland - I found that fascinating. From, my students referring to her, ‘oh she's the island professor’. That was the framework I had at UH Hilo and I remember asking one of my close students, I was like, who is that? And they said ‘that's you’. So I think that that plurality in feminism is the fundamental understanding, right, and now over, let's say, in US feminism, context like, we will use the term ‘white feminism’, right. And so white feminism refers to that sort of very narrow cannon. And it's also this limited understanding that I see of my colleagues is that feminist scholarship, or examinations of gender is like, a women's movement in this very cliched way, rather than the deep thinking it provides to thinking about islands or other social factors or the construction of identities. I mean, it's important, not as a movement for justice, which is also important, but if we are going to do rich island scholarship, then it's about time we start thinking deeply about race, class, gender, intersectionality, indigeneity, right? And […] centering on indigenous identities and thinking about that is something for me that developed here in Hawaii.
Yes, this is fascinating. And I am so looking forward to seeing how your work further develops in this space. I was looking at your recent work with great interest and I saw there a further continuation of the gender theme. And a new contribution, I would say to island studies, in terms of methodology. And I'm referring here to your upcoming work on the ‘Persephonic Rythms, and the Seasonal Urbanization of island Space’ that is focusing on tourism and migration in the island of Lesbos in Greece. And I'm really curious to hear more about this. This is something new to me, and I think, to the greater audience out there in island studies.
[…] It’s kind of exciting that the island feminism sort of has been what I've been centered on, but it seems, I'm always I guess, more of a methodologist than I'd like to be in terms of thinking about methodologies. […] And so rhythmanalysis is, again, a love affair. When it first was presented to me, I was engaged with the work in studying street vendors, I became familiar with the work of Henri Lefebvre, who is the person most associated, and I do have to say, Catherine Régulier, his collaborator that often doesn't get the credit that she deserves. And so I got engaged with the Production of Space and then read some of his work on the Critique of Everyday Life. And then there's a short little book that came out, that was published, translated into English around 2003, which was Rhythmanalysis. And so from there, I became absorbed in the methodology and I'll try to summarize it up in a second. And then what was interesting is that I work to sort of trace where it came from. And it's interesting because some of the first articulations was actually a Brazilian scholar, and then Bergeson picked it up. And then Lefebvre is the one who sort of laid it out. But this publication that I have the ‘Persephonic Rhythms’ just came out. And Dawn Lyon is the editor. She's in England in the UK. And she has done quite a bit of work with developing it. So she's got a nice little book that says, ‘What is rhythm analysis’ that I'd encourage anyone who's interested in it. And so there's clearly something sexy about rhythmanalysis, I just introduced it to my grad students in society and space, and everyone wants to use it for their dissertation now. And so it's okay, we've got to slow down here. And so what I like about rhythmanalysis, in and of itself, is that it really captures the idea that nothing is fixed, right? Even if we look, the early applications of rhythmanalysis has been to cities, for example. And chapter three [of Rhythmanalysis], ‘A Room With a View’ is a lovely read for anyone who might be interested in rhythmanalysis, […] so that's one aspect, right? and is removing the static and also this sort of idea of thinking of circular rhythms, right, sort of seasonal. And then Lefebvre lays out linear rhythms, for example, he uses the blow of a hammer, right? I think, you know, music, playing it as a young person. Having a spouse who's a musician, has been very big in my life. And my first child's name has the middle name, rhythm, after Panos, of course, after my grandfather.
[…] I think also living a life of movement, right, sort of, also maybe brought it and made it attractive. The other aspect in which I hope to contribute in thinking about rhythmanalysis is also how it allows sort of historical and contemporary rhythms to be applied. So I used that in the book launch, and talked about, if we think of tourism as a contemporary or recent rhythm on the Greek islands, which it is really, from the 1960s. And in terms of the Aegean islands, the impact of the Ottoman Empire, that's a long historical rhythm, but it's still there. And so when we think of that, then we can think of […] the interaction of tourism, and this particular longer rhythm among others, right? Or that we can say that one has sort of faded out, for example, or it's just this low beat. And then the other part for me, is thinking about social identities that we were just talking about before, with intersectionality as rhythms as well. And so, for example, in the US, we're dealing with fascism, to a major degree. And so the issue of race, particularly black or African American, it's quite a potent, high tuned rhythm, you know, fast one that is, is a major pace right now. And so that allows me, as somebody who wants to be both, this was something I had struggled earlier on, in terms of thinking about intersectionality in people's lives in that way. And then also being a political economist and thinking about larger scale forces, how do I deal with that without saying the global is here, and the local is here and really recognizing these interactions? And so in particular, I think island studies and I, there was a forum during COVID […] what was it, the 36 hour island studies conference, that was where I first introduced rhythmanalysis as a method for islanders and then was able to apply it in this particular article because island lives are rhythmic, you know, for one of course, being surrounded by you know, the sea, but often we're dealing with tourisms or visitors, coming in and out, almost in a distinct kind of flow, right. So those were some other aspects in terms of thinking about that.
Yes, fascinating, really, indeed. I'm looking forward to reading your work in this space. What I liked in particular, is how you grounded your analysis in relating these forms, these visitations to the myth of Persephone. And see that sort of connection between your Greek heritage and the Sappho from your book. But yes, I like that visual element.
That is the thrill of scholarship, right, but you can write an article that's called Persephonic Rhythms and provide some deep analysis […] with that framework. And then tie it, you know, the thing with Persephone, and that myth is what came up in my research for Sappho's Legacy. Right […] when the season ends in Greece, the tourist season ends, it's due to the weather, right. And if the summer extends a little bit, which happened a couple of times when I was there, during the winter/fall times, then the tourists will hang out, and the cafes will stay open a little bit longer. And then when that rain comes, it closes, right. I mean that's not the end of the season, the term that is used in Greece, is that είμαστε κλειστά, ‘we're closed now’. And then is the opening that comes with this glorious arrival, a little slower than I would say how the closing happened. And then and then you're in, right, that rhythm of the sun is in you can put your table and your cooking materials outside. And unlike Hawaii, you don't have to worry about rain pretty much for the entire summer. Right. And that rhythm […] and that of the Mediterranean line that exists, that distinguishes that part of, let's say, the European continent, compared to the rest is quite dramatic, in its seasonal effect. And so I just kept thinking, going back as a little girl we attended all the appropriate Greek schools and studies and all of that. So we didn't lose that Greek heritage. But I just cannot, you know, kept going back to that myth. It was also horrifying, that myth of, you know, this young woman being abducted as well. So that's probably you know, besides it being a sort of well-known one.
Yes, there is of course, a lot of work about Persephone, which is another, you know, space that someone will be exploring in a more detailed way. You come from a sociology background, and we do know that island studies is an interdisciplinary field of studies. But you come from sociology, and I was wondering, what is the contribution of your disciplinary field to island studies? And how that has evolved over time?
My first lei for Hawaiian studies
Credit: Marina Karides
Yes, I mean I don't know if I can speak directly to sociology’s contribution, right. Because when I look at, let's say, the journals in sociology […] this is the other part of island studies, there's a lack of sort of engagement with these concepts. Now, sociologists, generally speaking, right, are not convinced of the importance of space, and in the same ways, let's say as human geographers, right, which is why my current position is such a natural fit. I don't have to make the case that space matters, right. It's essential. I do think though, what sociologists and my sociological training has provided, especially my sort of training in terms of feminism and sort of critical race theory kind of work, is a laser sharp focus on watching social inequality and identifying it as it occurs. And that is lacking in island study. So I think the sociological lens, that critical sociological lens basically has a lot to contribute. And so one project I would like to mention is […] received a grant, a million dollar grant, from the National Science Foundation, to study work careers for women’s STEM faculty across the UH community colleges and also to other campuses. Until in that project, we've been able to interview over 75 faculty, you know, both men, women and non-binary. And we also have now done, majors surveys across these campuses with robust numbers, which we’re crunching at the moment. But in creating that survey, and having my island studies framed on, there's a whole set of questions asking faculty, what does it mean to be a scholar on an island? How does that shape your career? What are the opportunities? So a piece that I recently published with Natalie Rita, who's a grad student in sociology, PhD candidate. I'm just going to cite it, ‘I have an accent so people know I am not from here: a racial and ethnic analysis of international STEM faculty in Hawaii’. We were able to sort of carve out not only race, gender and ethnicity, but an emphasis on what it means in Hawaii, right, which has a very unique race and ethnic and indigenous context. And so we were also able to sort of see how that also intersects with its ‘islandness’, right. And sort of how it shaped careers. So something of interest would be, interviewing faculty across islands, that universities are […] or targeting maybe University of the West Indies UWI in the Caribbean, and then the University of Aegean over in Greece, and maybe comparing those three.
Yes, what a fascinating new aspect to study within that space. Could you speak a little bit more to your work on understanding how island spaces offer alternative economic models that serve social needs and the natural environment better than the dominant economic models? Or modes?
Yes, so thank for bringing that up. For me, that's my third sort of focus, let's say in relationship to islands studies, one being the island feminisms the other rhythmanalysis and really central and close to my heart is this alternative economic models, small scale enterprises, street vendors in Trinidad, you know, self-employed women in Cyprus, and now looking both in Hawaii and also in Lesbos. […] one is this emphasis of the ‘local’, localisms as a movement, buying local, eating local, etc. And so, in all that literature on alternative food networks, I found nothing, at least by I don't know, two years ago, right. But that really engaged with island food systems, right. Which is the title of what my sixth chapter […] I call it obnoxiously “Lessons for the Continent”, right, island food systems. And so it would seem to me with all this push of thinking about local food systems, and this is work I did in South Florida as well, looking at the development of an alternative food network. So I had some experience in thinking about it, but we weren't thinking about islands, which seems to be a natural opportunity to think about how a local food system would operate. Right. And so then what you seem to find on islands, right, and some of it, I would say is based empirically on my research, other is just in my own experiences, but that there is, even when there is a big tourist economy on the island there… islanders continue to have their own plot or their own food sources or know where they're going to gather here lilikoi or olives, which you know, is much more farmed, but still, there is this practice. The other thing is that for many islands, not these ones that have these huge resorts, right, but the Greek islands, the Aegean islands, right, have a limitation on the size of an entity that can be built. And so you have, Schumacher, who wrote, many years ago in 1973 Small is Beautiful which sort of talked about a bunch of small enterprises is less impactful than one large one, right. And so, you also have this idea of engagement with the environment, right. And then the other work, obviously, in using convivial economics, I draw from another love affair is with Ivan Ilich’s work. And fundamentally, thinking through anarchist principles, and in the future thinking, anarchy, for me, is a positive word, in terms of thinking of how Greek islands actually operate through this sort of reciprocity, and informal negotiation and trust that this will play out. Right. And I, I have in my book, I really give many examples of how this plays out and how much more complicated it is, rather than to have a sort of contractual society. Right. So the green grocer has 20 customers, and with each of his customers, he has 20 different relationships, and agreements, right. And there's also the work of AbdouMaliq Simone, For the City Yet to Come’. It's work, it takes place, he focuses on African cities, four case studies in particular. But his work was extremely inspiring for me in terms of thinking through this, because what happens when the state is not available and capital is not interested? And how do people figure out ways of getting their basic needs met? And it all has to be on this informal negotiation and trust and so there's something about islands, right, that sort of facilitates that, right. When people will say, Well, where are you going to go? I know where you live? Right. Is a little inside joke.
So Marina, you live in Hawaii, you work in Hawaii, you have a long commitment to these islands. How does Hawaii influence / inform your work on islands?
I arrived on Hawaii island in 2014. And that was just the time the first attempt to build the 30 meter telescope on Mauna Kea had occurred. It's a highly problematic issue, building a telescope on sacred space, recognized / identified not only for, Kanaka ʻŌiwi (kama'aina), Native Hawaiians, but for the Pacific overall, as well as it's our main watershed, and it is also an environmental problem. And so I sort of showed up in some ways, like a, what is it a deer looking at headlights, and it was in that environment where I, (A) had just a wonderful group of students who schooled me and also facilitated what I was able to actually develop at UH Hilo was an island and Indigenous Studies track in sociology for students. […] what I recognized quite quickly is that I needed grounding, to some extent, in the native Hawaiian Knowledge system. And fortunately at UH Hilo, which is kind of famed for its work along with Hawaii Community College, there was a program called Uluākea, and I also enrolled as a student in the community college in Hawaiian studies, and then eventually for a short time was able to dance under Kumu Pele Kaio in halau Unu Lau. So that work was enormous and exhausting, in terms of the amount of learning I needed to do to be a better faculty member for my students and to think about […] while I was learning a new knowledge system, for example, hula and the challenges it presented me it made me a much more sympathetic teacher. You know, as I was introducing some Western concepts of social theory. So it was quite fruitful. And then the deeper understanding is, one of the folks in leadership here from the Edith Kanakaole Foundation, who I had an opportunity with, really emphasize this idea of island consciousness is what is grounding the Native Hawaiian Knowledge system. And it's success until occupation and contact of living, I'm looking out at all my trees, living in engagement with the environment as a sibling, right, that this deeper understanding attracted me, and it made a lot of sense.
2018 Mauna Kea, Hawaii - Kia'i (protectors)
Credit: Marina Karides
And so one outcome of this was, again, back to methodology, was an opportunity to participate in an intensive event over three cycles of looking at all your native Hawaiian chants, and looking for the environmental laws that are embedded in them with a group of scholars and cultural practitioners, marine biologists, volcanologists, and coming to a set of principles that, really was guided in a sense to speak back to on what basis are you building the 30 meter telescope? So this just got published in Alternatives, very good journal, I'm really happy to have this opportunity to work with those editors, they were really quite phenomenal. But that brought together indigenous Native Hawaiian methodologies with grounded theory analysis, and sort of lays out how we do that. So I think also, much of the writing I did for Sappho’s Legacy started when I was in sabbatical in Hawaii in 2011. So that sense of island place and the expanse and the limitations it offers you is really […] I am just so fortunate to be here, I feel that not only because of the work I want to do in island studies and being located on Hawaʻii island is certainly probably ideal, given this is where Epeli Hauʻofa came to his realization. It couldn't be better than that.
My first presentation on the UH Hilo campus, after I gave it, and was sort of talking about island studies and island feminism, a Senior Scholar came over and he said, you know this is the same room that he presented in? So I said yeah, kind of looks like it! But that's another story.
How does a scholar from the mainland in the sense of a Greek-mainland American from the mainland, engage with an island space that is considered to be occupied? And how does the activist and social justice side of you respond to that?
Yes it's something. It's been so interesting. And so I have to really thank the Aloha [welcome] that has been granted to me, here in Hawaii, but certainly going up to Mauna Kea and being trained in civil defence and showing up, last. I remember a call, I got there, like, okay, they're going to try to go up the mountain. And it's nine o'clock in the evening. Family helps me pack I run up there. And it was amazing. The security stops on the way of a public road. And I'm fairly certain it was because I was a single woman from the mainland and certainly playing that card to get to get myself up there. Several of my students set up tents up there and lived up there over the time. I did do a presentation on island feminism at the University that was established up there. […] And I have no problem being the person who runs up and sticks their necks out. it's not for everyone. It comes naturally to me. So I'm not judging others, but that has allowed me to sort of have a clear evidence of offering allyship and I think that Hawaii is an open and welcoming space, if you participate in the local context. The colonial mentality of colleagues that I've witnessed is abrupt, it's real. The pushback, for example, in establishing an island and Indigenous Studies program, and the attempt right now to dismantle it, even though it's a mission of the University to be an indigenous serving places, is severe. So the threat and the concerns that are articulated by indigenous islanders is real, it's very real. And so, for as long as I am able to live here, I will work (A) to keep the understanding and train students, where I'm asked to, and just participate as best as I can. And also, let me just be honest, and make plenty of mistakes. I know, I'm making plenty of mistakes.
Yeah, making mistakes is alright, as long as we have that awareness of it and taking action to remedy. What is your current island research?
So I have the projects that I'm finishing up or have articulated. And so, there is sort of, a real interest in a comparison of Hawaii islands and the Greek islands; particularly the Aegean islands. And I sort of talk about these two islands, as this […] understanding our constructs of East and West, are dependent on Hawaii and the Aegean islands. And you sort of can see the influence, right, of both ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ cultures, because those are problematic terms in themselves, but you can see their influence on both of these islands. Although, different parts of what is ‘West’ in Asia, and what is ‘West’ in Europe, for example, you know, California etc. […] One thing I think about, which came up in Hula was the form of circular dance that we do in Greece. And hula originally was a circular dance before it became performance, let's say, not performance, I don't want to take away from that, because there's plenty of cultural practice, but it was sort of the form sort of changed, right. So it was a circular dance. And it also was not a partner dance, right. A man-woman, woman-man dance either, right. These are interesting elements. The entire cosmology, mythology of Greek islands, and what occurs on all of them and the gods and goddesses and demigods running around all these islands is also very similar. So, I have a few categories, right, the alternative economy and the resistance to the state that I would like to and maybe later work, lay out this sort of way. I think it could be a good contribution to island studies as well, right. Like, what I can tease out from that kind of project.
Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you for elaborating a little bit more on this part of your work. Coming slowly into concluding our conversation today, I wanted to ask you, what are some concluding thoughts that you might have about the future of islands studies? And also, what are your plans for further islands studies research?
Sure, so I'll answer the last one first, and then conclude with my thoughts for island studies. So my future research, which I'm pretty excited to have a upcoming year of travel and sabbatical to be able to dig into some of this stuff. But there's a couple of pieces that I need to finish one has been on island, women, sex tourism to islands, where I look at Jamaica, the Greek islands and Bali. There are three documentaries on these three places, where they sort of, in various ways, present the white woman tourists coming to have an experience and how sex tourism works for women with island men right. And so, this is also racialized and ethnicised and also a power dynamic in terms of economics, but I am making the argument that island masculinities is also what is part of this dynamic right? And that separating from one space to another, this permission, imaginary or real, that islands give you is part of, in particular, women’s sex tourism. There's some interesting work with Viniops the hunter and the hunted, the Kamaki that characterize Greek islands. I spent a little time exploring that also in my book because it's such a factor, especially in Lesbos in Skala Eresso. So they had this very interesting dynamic occurring, because the Greek men were trying to pick up lesbian identified women. And there was this like talking past each other. The interviews were great around that and how people sort of were amused and annoyed, but both. So that's one piece, the other is continuing with coffee house masculinities. You know, some of the work being pulled from that didn't get covered in my book. I'm very excited to have been invited to do a book about Sappho, I mean not a book, a chapter. So it's the Brill's companion to the reception of Sappho, which was mostly in the humanities but they wanted sort of a contextual piece. And so that's thrilling to me because I make this point in the book but I say wherever you are, Sappho is alive in Lesbos, right? And it's not just the international lesbian enclave, it's the men at the kafenio. It's a topic I can bring up and everybody has thoughts about it. So I'm hoping to spend some time in Greece this summer, just talking to people about Sappho. So yes, there's a few projects, mostly focusing on islands. And yes, and then, yes, I'll stop there.
Skala Eressos, Lesvos, Greece
Credit: Marina Karides
I think Marina, there is plenty there to keep you busy for the next 20-30 years scholarly wise.
How am I going to get it done? And finally, that last question, I do think that islands studies […] and I'm trying to sort of write about this right now, but island studies, at least from my vantage point, has been patriarchal and Eurocentric, and that space needs to open up, the leadership has been there far too long. And the sort of decision makers seem to be the same cadre of people. And there seems to be a lack of understanding, as I was saying early, of the sort of depth of what feminist theorizing actually means. It's not, as was discussed many years ago, add women and stir, right? The exploration of violence from a queer theoretical perspective is so important, given the histories of islands as places of reprieve and also violence as well. But that is a quite a complicated story. And so, to me, the future of island studies sort of depends on its sort of being blown up with a social sort of justice orientation. That continues not to be represented in publications both in Shima and islands Studies Journal. Yes, quantifiably, I'm making that statement on empirical data not as a matter of opinion. […] I think it's important, let me say this one last thing, that it's important that we really, that there's a clear shift that occurs because what happens is people even like myself, get attracted to island studies, or are island studies, and then get involved and then don't see themselves there anymore, or get pushed out as in my case. […] So hopefully island feminisms will offer the alternative as a social justice project or even a ‘soggy noses’ piece with a couple of co-authors on. Maybe we develop a, I don't know if that's what they were doing in the article, but this idea I Googled was critical, island studies and it was already there, thankfully, So that's what I'd like to say.
Me too. Me too. Thank you, Marina, what a rich conversation and also how very promising, how very promising indeed, to hear from you. And the future of island studies embracing island feminisms. The conversation with you was so rich and I was noting down all these little gems that came through. And I'll summarize them here because I think it's important to do that in this particular conversation from your island genealogy, to islands as cosmopolitan spaces, island activism, island feminisms as social justice and also island masculinities. You can't have one without the other. They rhythm analysis coming in to enrich islands studies methodological frameworks, convivial economies within island spaces, such a rich concept in small island communities. And of course and most importantly here, I would have to say patriarchal island studies and the need to expand and open and embrace and enrich. And I think your work comes in to do just that. So, thank you. Thank you very much for your time.
Thank you. Mahalo.