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Bikinis and Other S/pacific N/oceans

Teresia K. Teaiwa

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What does the word “bikini” evoke for you? A woman in a two-piece bathing suit, or a site for nuclear-weapons testing? A bikini-clad woman invigorated by solar radiation, or Bikini Islanders cancer ridden from nuclear radiation? Th e sensational bathing suit was named for Bikini Atoll. Th is was the site in the Marshall Islands for the testing of twenty- fi ve nuclear bombs between 1946 and 1958. Bikini Islanders testify to the continuing history of colonialism and ecological racism in the Pa- cifi c basin. Th e bikini bathing suit is a testament to the recurring tourist trivialization of Pacifi c Islanders’ experience and existence. By draw- ing attention to a sexualized and supposedly depoliticized female body, the bikini distracts from the colonial and highly political origins of its name. Th e sexist dynamic the bikini performs—objectifi cation through excessive visibility—inverts the colonial dynamics that have occurred during nuclear testing in the Pacifi c, that is, objectifi cation by rendering invisible. Th e bikini bathing suit manifests both a celebration and a for- getting of the nuclear power that strategically and materially marginal- izes and erases the living history of Pacifi c Islanders. Th e bikini emerges from colonial notions that marginalize “s/pacifi c” bodies while generi- cizing and centering female bodies.

For Pacifi c Islanders the name “Bikini” evokes memories and visions of a s/pacifi c historical and contemporary political reality. Nuclear test- ing is just one—albeit a most pernicious one—of the many colonial phe- nomena and processes that aff ect the Pacifi c region. In 1980 the United

Shigematsu, S., & Camacho, K. L. (Eds.). (2010). Militarized currents : Toward a decolonized future in asia and the pacific. University of Minnesota Press. Created from sfsu on 2022-10-21 03:56:35.

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