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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
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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.
July 16, 2022

China, Climate Dominate Pacific Islands Forum Meeting

By Patricia O’Brien
The U.S. and Australia cannot meaningfully counter China’s rising influence without addressing the Pacific Islands’ top concern.

July 14, 2022

Can the US Open a ‘New Chapter’ With the Pacific?

By Patricia O’Brien
A U.S. return to the Pacific could yield great benefit, but that return has to be done right, and it should start with an upscaling of America’s Pacific literacy.
July 13, 2022

The Politics Behind Who is Attending the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Meeting

By Patricia O’Brien
Dialogue partners were disinvited from the PIF meeting this week as the organization wrestles with internal divisions. But U.S. Vice President Harris got to speak virtually to the forum anyway.

June 14, 2022

China’s Pacific Push Is Already Remaking the Region

By Patricia O’Brien
After a whirlwind of visits and agreements, where does the Pacific region stand?

May 28, 2022

It’s Game On in the Pacific

By Patricia O’Brien
Australia’s new government and the United States are both moving urgently to boost ties with Pacific Island countries as the scope of China’s ambition becomes clear.

May 23, 2022

Australian Voters Demand Change, Oust Morrison’s Coalition Government

By Patricia O’Brien
Out of the wreckage of Morrison’s Liberal rule comes a new political era for Australia.
April 30, 2022

Australia’s Monroe Doctrine in the Age of the China-Solomon Islands Security Deal

By Patricia O’Brien
Old anxieties about Australia’s vulnerabilities remain relatively unchanged, but the new geopolitical order is fundamentally different. 

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