Campus News

07.27.2017

Professors Michael Weiner and Shane J. Barter (editors) of The Pacific Basin: An Introduction

Aliso Viejo, CA - The Pacific Basin: An Introduction, a textbook presenting an interdisciplinary and comparative overview of the emerging Pacific region that is co-edited by Soka University of America professors Michael Weiner and Shane J. Barter, has been published by Routledge. This textbook, comprised of chapters from more than a dozen SUA professors, provides a counterbalance to the Atlantic narrative commonly encountered in both education and in the media. 

The Pacific Basin: An Introduction, is especially timely due in great part to China’s rise as a global rival to the United States as well as the increasing connections among between the Pacific Basin, Europe, Africa, and Latin America.“There have been few textbooks focused on the Pacific Region, mostly aimed at specialists,” Dr. Barter explained. “Thus, being one of the first interdisciplinary and introductory books on the Pacific Region, it has a lot of importance.” 

The text ranges widely by defining the Pacific Basin, explaining its importance, and addressing the origins and evolution of this vast area and its sub-regions. Individual chapters provide analyses of colonialism and imperialism, migration and settlement, economic development and trade, international relations, war and memory, environmental policy, urbanization, mental and public health, gender, film and literature. Additionally, this textbook addresses the diversity that characterizes the Pacific Basin, while identifying the common challenges that confront Pacific Basin nations and the various responses to those challenges. 

A nearly four-year process from inception to publication, this view of the world from a Pacific Basin perspective has been a collaborative effort from start to finish. The contributors include faculty who teach Pacific Basin-related courses, and/or conduct research related to the region. The book grew out of the success of SUA’s Introduction to the Pacific Basin course.  “We had a core faculty that had worked well as a team for years,” Dr. Weiner said. Numerous conversations between Dr. Weiner and Edward M. Feasel, PhD, Vice President for Academic Affairs, led to the conclusion that expanding on that work was not only important but also an opportunity to make a valuable contribution to the undergraduate field of study of the Pacific Rim. 

In recalling the ensuing discussions with potential faculty contributors, Dr. Weiner said, “Some faculty wanted to move toward the creation of a reader or course packet, others wanted a textbook.”  The final decision in favor of a text posed its own challenges. “We have our teaching, and our writing, which are different from each other,” Dr. Barter said. “Textbook is writing as teaching and a very different style of writing than many professors are used to,” he added, describing the learning experience for contributors. Both Dr. Weiner and Dr. Barter expressed pride in the collaborative effort required to accomplish the final text. “It was exciting for us all to see and read each other’s work in print to get a better sense of who we are and what we do,” Dr. Barter said. And it is especially fitting that SUA with its wide range of Pacific Basin-related courses provided the innovative and fertile ground for the undertaking. 

SUA student-involvement also features in this volume. The cover features the art of alumna Flo Minowa, 2012, Humanities major, now a graphic design artist living in Budapest. Ms. Minowa’s rendering moved the land masses together and shrunk the Pacific Ocean. “There’s a tendency to think of the Pacific Ocean as a barrier or obstacle,” Dr. Weiner said. “We wanted to give a different impression – the Pacific as a highway along which people, culture, ideas, technology and capital have moved back and forth for centuries. “Flo nailed it,” Dr. Weiner said, “and Routledge loved it.” Additionally, the textbook involved the work of several SUA undergraduate research assistants, as it was truly a campus-wide effort. 

After an introductory chapter, the first section of the book provides an overview of the regions of the Pacific Basin and includes contributions such as “Oceania: An Overview,” by Edward D. Lowe and “The North American Sphere of Influence: From Sea to Shining Sea,” by John M. Heffron.  The second section focuses on specific themes that cut across the Pacific, including “The Literature of Exile” by John Pavel Kehlen, “Economic Development in the Pacific Basin since World War II,” by Hong-Yi Chen, and “Boundary Disputes in the Pacific Basin,” by Lisa MacLeod. 

With The Pacific Basin: An Introduction, Professors Barter and Weiner and their SUA colleagues have provided an important addition to textbooks for undergraduate courses concerned with the Pacific Basin, the Pacific Rim, International Studies and Globalization. “Nothing like this exists in terms of scope,” Dr. Weiner said. “We designed the Pacific Basin very broadly – not just as a geographical space but as an economic, political, cultural and communicative space.” Reflecting on the collaboration, Dr. Weiner hailed the book as an unprecedented accomplishment among academic publications, ‘It is entirely written by faculty at Soka University!” 

The editors would also like to acknowledge the generous support of the Luis and Linda Nieves Family Foundation in bringing this project to fruition.