Ocean Passages

Navigating Pacific Islander and Asian American Literatures

Erin Suzuki
Book Cover

PB: $39.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2094-7
Publication: Mar 21

HC: $110.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-2093-0
Publication: Mar 21

Ebook: $39.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2095-4
Publication: Mar 21

268 pages
6 x 9
1 halftone

Comparing and contrasting the diverse experiences of Asian and Pacific Islander subjectivities across a shared sea

Read the Introduction (pdf).


In her pathbreaking book , Ocean Passages, Erin Suzuki explores how movement through—and travel across—the ocean mediates the construction of Asian American and Indigenous Pacific subjectivities in the wake of the colonial conflicts that shaped the modern transpacific. Ocean Passages considers how Indigenous Pacific scholars have emphasized the importance of the ocean to Indigenous activism, art, and theories of globalization and how Asian American studies might engage in a deconstructive interrogation of race in conversation with this Indigenous-centered transnationalism.

The ocean passages that Suzuki addresses include the U.S. occupation and militarization of ocean space; refugee passage and the history and experiences of peoples displaced from the Pacific Islands; migratory circuits and the labors required to cross the sea; and the different ways that oceans inform postcolonial and settler colonial nationalisms. She juxtaposes work by Indigenous Pacific and Asian American artists and authors including James George, Maxine Hong Kingston, Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, lê thi diếm thúy, Ruth Ozeki, and Craig Santos Perez. In Ocean Passages, Suzuki explores what new ideas, alliances, and flashpoints might arise when comparing and contrasting Asian and Pacific Islander passages across a shared sea.


“Finally, a book that takes the ‘and’ in ‘Asian American and Pacific Islander’ seriously! In this beautifully written and finely theorized work, Suzuki advances the concept of passages to enable a rethinking of social subjectivities—including conflicted and conflicting positionalities—in relational terms. Moving beyond merely bringing the fields of transpacific Asian American and Indigenous Pacific studies into conversation, Ocean Passages meaningfully engages Indigenous Pacific critique on epistemological grounds to decolonize transpacific scholarship.” J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, Professor of American Studies at Wesleyan University, and author of Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty: Land, Sex, and the Colonial Politics of State Nationalism

“Erin Suzuki masterfully demonstrates that the diverse subjects who undertake multiple ‘passages’ across and through oceanic space—including migrants, settlers, islanders, refugees, and the nonhuman denizens of the Pacific, among others—exceed the limited categories generated by transnational capitalism’s impoverished imagination. In emphasizing how transpacific exchange has been materially and imaginatively shaped by Indigenous Pacific knowledges, Ocean Passages highlights kinesthetic, experiential, and nonlinear epistemologies drawn from both Indigenous and Asian American histories, practices, and texts. The project’s commitment to treating these distinct archives in relation to one another addresses some of the blind spots in current transpacific studies and Asian American studies, introduces us to the richly diverse writers and thinkers of Oceania, and constitutes a stunning example of decolonial transpacific critique.” Tina Chen, Director of the Global Asias Initiative at Penn State University, and author of Double Agency: Acts of Impersonation in Asian American Literature and Culture

“Ocean Passages examines how movement within, through, and across the Pacific Ocean mediates the subjectivities of Asian American and Indigenous Pacific communities in the wake of colonial conflicts that have shaped the region. Through a sustained analysis of how various narratives of ‘ocean passages’ disrupt and revise hegemonic constructions of the Pacific, Suzuki demonstrates what new orientations, concepts, and openings can emerge by bringing Asian and Pacific Islander passages across the same sea into a critical analytic of relation…. Ocean Passages demonstrates how transpacific studies can evolve and continue to be a generative framing for counterhegemonic, decolonial research across disciplines.” Lateral

Table of Contents


1. Militarized Passages: Securing the Sea
2. Refugee Passages: In the Wake of War
3. Commercial Passages: On Cycles and Circulations
4. Embodied Passages: “Local” Motions and the Settler Colonial Body Politic
5. Virtual Passages: Pacific Futures

Works Cited

About the Author(s)

Erin Suzuki is an Assistant Professor of Literature at the University of California, San Diego.


In the Series

  • Critical Race, Indigeneity, and Relationality edited by Antonio T. Tiongson, Jr., Danika Medak-Saltzman, Iyko Day, and Shanté Paradigm Smalls

    Edited by Antonio T. Tiongson Jr., Danika Medak-Saltzman, Iyko Day, and Shanté Paradigm Smalls, Critical Race, Indigeneity, and Relationality showcases comparative studies of race, ethnicity, and Indigeneity in projects that take a self-reflexive approach in their deployment of relational frameworks and analytics. The series spotlights projects that theorize the imbrication of settler colonial logics with other structuring logics such as franchise colonialism, racial chattel slavery, neoliberal capitalism, ableism, Islamophobia, heteropatriarchy, and the carceral and surveillance state. The series does so in order to complicate the canon of comparative race scholarship and nuance normative iterations of women of color feminism and queer of color critique. For these reasons, the series seeks projects that are grounded in, and build on, the theoretical insights and methodologies of women of color feminism and queer of color critique as they engage with Native theorizing, Indigeneity, and settler colonial paradigms. Critical Race, Indigeneity, and Relationality steers away from the familiar means of evoking and excavating patterns of similarities and differences to publish works that provide an alternative interpretive grid for comparative work—one that is acutely attuned to historical conjunctures, structural disjunctures, and power asymmetries.

    Proposals may be submitted to Acquisitions Editor, Temple University Press Shaun Vigil