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Patricia O’Brien

Patricia O’Brien

Patricia O’Brien is a historian, author, analyst and commentator on Australia and Oceania. She is a faculty member in Asian Studies at Georgetown University and in the Department of Pacific Affairs, Australian National University, and is Adjunct Faculty in the Pacific Partners Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Washington DC

Patricia O’Brien is a wide-ranging historian and analyst of Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands. She is the author of “Tautai: Sāmoa, World History and the Life and Ta’isi O. F. Nelson” (2017), “The Pacific Muse: Exotic Femininity and the Colonial Pacific” (2006), and is co-editor of “League of Nations: Histories, Legacies and Impact” (2018) and numerous other works. She was the resident Australian and Pacific historian at Georgetown University, Washington DC from 2000-2013, the Jay I. Kislak Fellow in American Studies at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress in 2011, and the J. D. Stout Fellow in New Zealand Studies at Victoria University Wellington in 2012. From 2014-2019 she was an Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the School of History, Australian National University, Canberra.

In 2020, she returned to Georgetown University’s Asian Studies Program to teach on Pacific pasts, presents, and futures. As well as ongoing historical writing and research, she has done analysis, podcasts, and media commentary on Pacific-related topics, from Samoa’s constitutional crisis (she is also co-editing a book on this complex topic), regional relations with Papua New Guinea, U.S. atomic testing in the Marshall Islands, the current Compact of Free Association negotiations, the AUKUS agreement and COVID-19 in the Pacific and U.S.-based Pasifika communities. In 2021, she also joined the Australian National University’s Department of Pacific Affairs as a visiting fellow and the Pacific Partners Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Washington DC.


Posts by Patricia O’Brien
September 22, 2023

What to Expect From the 2nd US-Pacific Islands Summit

By Patricia O’Brien
The upcoming summit represents the crowning event of Washington’s explosive re-engagement with the Pacific Islands.

September 15, 2023

2 Years On, AUKUS Continues to Raise Questions

By Patricia O’Brien
China obviously has concerns about the security pact, but so do some of Australia's friends and partners – and Australians themselves.
August 23, 2023

The Politics and Geopolitics of Women’s Sport in the Pacific

By Patricia O’Brien
The lack of Pacific women in Australian and New Zealand stadiums speaks to something amiss with Australia’s sports diplomacy.

May 01, 2023

China in the Pacific: The Fiji Case

By Patricia O’Brien
The specter of geostrategic competition being mapped onto Fiji’s political fault lines remains a distinct possibility that would be deeply damaging for the nation, and region, as a whole.

February 28, 2023

In Fiji, Bainimarama Suspended From Parliament Until 2026

By Patricia O’Brien
Despite Rabuka’s thin majority, his government has wasted no time in systematically dismantling Bainimarama’s extensive power base.

February 25, 2023

The Politics of Apology in the Pacific

By Patricia O’Brien
Besides being the right thing to do, apologies bring diplomatic and political gains in a region haunted by colonial and imperial atrocities.
February 02, 2023

History’s Shadow Looms Over Fiji

By Patricia O’Brien
As Fiji enters a new political era following 16 years under the rule of Bainimarama, history’s shadow looms large.

October 06, 2022

What Did the US-Pacific Summit Achieve?

By Patricia O’Brien
For all the talk of China and geopolitics, climate change and funding remained at the top of Pacific leaders’ agenda.

September 29, 2022

Sogavare the Spoiler and the US Pacific Partnership Strategy

By Patricia O’Brien
The Solomon Islands’ prime minister promises to be a bit of a spoiler during the summit, even as Washington unveils its Pacific Partnership Strategy.

September 28, 2022

What to Watch for as the US-Pacific Island Country Summit Begins

By Patricia O’Brien
Behind the hopes and pageantry of the summit, there will be many challenges for both sides to navigate.

September 08, 2022

The Domestic Politics of Sogavare’s China-Solomons Tryst

By Patricia O’Brien
The prime minister’s latest moves clarify his ultimate objective: augmenting and retaining power, which also stands to benefit Beijing.
August 24, 2022

With Secret Self-Appointments, Morrison Torched Australia’s Democracy

By Patricia O’Brien
The wider reckoning about Morrison’s misdeeds, and how he came to rise to the heights of power in the first place, is going to be deeply uncomfortable.

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