Consuming Ocean Island

Consuming Ocean Island

Stories of People and Phosphate from Banaba
Teaiwa, Katerina Martina
Distribution: World
Publication date: 12/27/2014
Format: Paperback 38 b&w illus., 2 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-01452-8
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Consuming Ocean Island tells the story of the land and people of Banaba, a small Pacific island, which, from 1900 to 1980, was heavily mined for phosphate, an essential ingredient in fertilizer. As mining stripped away the island's surface, the land was rendered uninhabitable, and the indigenous Banabans were relocated to Rabi Island in Fiji. Katerina Martina Teaiwa tells the story of this human and ecological calamity by weaving together memories, records, and images from displaced islanders, colonial administrators, and employees of the mining company. Her compelling narrative reminds us of what is at stake whenever the interests of industrial agriculture and indigenous minorities come into conflict. The Banaban experience offers insight into the plight of other island peoples facing forced migration as a result of human impact on the environment.

Author Bio

Katerina Martina Teaiwa is Head of the Department of Gender, Media and Cultural Studies and Pacific Studies Convener in the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University. Born and raised in the Fiji Islands, she is of Banaban, I-Kiribati, and African American heritage.


Consuming Ocean Island is an ethnographic and analytic tour-de-force. Writing an intimate cultural history of the island of Banaba, Kiribati, conjoined with a history of phosphate and its extraction, Katerina Teaiwa places us amid unsettling stories of mining and its violent transformations—phosphate turned to fertilizer, a bountiful Pacific homeland left desolate, a people and their island’s very earth dispersed around the globe. In part a moving family story, this brilliant ethnography offers new ways to track globalization, dispersal, and creative recovery.

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Table of Contents

Prelude: Three Global Stories

Notes on Orthography and Geography

Part I. Phosphate Pasts
1. The Little Rock That Feeds
2. Stories of P
3. Land from the Sea

Part II. Mine/lands
4. Remembering Ocean Island
5. Land from the Sky
6. Interlude: Another Visit to Ocean Island
7. E Kawa te aba: The Trials of the Ocean Islanders
8. Remix: Our Sea of Phosphate (photo essay)

Part III. Between Our Islands
9. Interlude: Coming Home to Fiji
10. Between Rabi and Banaba


Ocean Island/Banaba Timeline

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