The Amerikas Colloquium
12 November 2020, 18:15, Zoom-Meeting
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Dr. Diego Muñoz Azócar (LMU Munich):
Rapa Nui and Chile - The uncertain sovereignty, conflicting histories and policies in Easter Island
On September 9, 1888, the island of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) was annexed by Chile. The island’s council of chiefs and a Chilean agent signed a bilingual Treaty of Annexation, written in Spanish and a mix of Rapanui and Tahitian. While the Spanish text stated that the chiefs “submitted the sovereignty” to Chile, in the Rapanui/Tahitian version, Chile is called a “friend of the place” (mau te hoa kona). This ambivalent annexation was not only a geopolitical act, which established a Chilean presence in Oceania, but also the basis of relationship between Rapanui people and the Chilean state, laying the foundation for the current political tensions concerning the island’s administration. In this presentation, I explore the set of problems stemming from this treaty, such as misunderstandings concerning the concepts of “sovereignty”, “chiefhood” and “land ownership”, and analyze the political implications as the discourse of Rapanui leaders is centered on “decolonization”. The Rapanui situation represents a singular case of (post)colonial history, connecting a Latin-American nation state and an Oceanic society. First, the Rapanui are the only “Polynesian people” that have become part of a Latin-American citizenry without, however, been regarded as colonized by but as Indigenous of Chile. Second, the island was incorporated into the Chilean territory by means of a treaty, while other places were militarily invaded. Third, Rapa Nui has been excluded from the United Nations’ decolonization process beginning in the 1960s. However, current Rapanui leaders conceive of the island as a “non-autonomous territory”, appropriating UN’s terminology and demanding “decolonization”. At the core of this development, is the contemporary relevance of the treaty for re-reading the past, present, and future of Rapa Nui in its relationship with Chile as well as with other Oceanic and Amerindian societies.
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