Friday, May 30, 2008

What is Oceania?

Oceania is a term often used to describe a large part of the world in the Pacific. I use Oceania as a label at this blog for some posts. However, I have been reading conflicting definitions of what this word actually means.

History of Nations - Oceania defines Oceania as, "Oceania includes most of the Pacific Ocean as well as portions of the Indian Ocean. Excluded are island nations which have been traditionally considered a part of Asia. Oceania includes Australia, New Zealand, and all of Polynesia." That definition is a bit vague.

Wikipedia attempts a definition with, "Oceania (sometimes Oceania) is a geographical, often geopolitical, region consisting of numerous lands—mostly islands in the Pacific Ocean and vicinity. The term is often used in many languages to define one of the continents and is one of eight terrestrial ecozones. Ethnologically, the islands that are included in Oceania are divided into the subregions of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. The exact scope of Oceania is variably defined: it generally includes New Zealand, is often taken to include parts of Australasia such as Australia and New Guinea, and sometimes all or part of the Malay Archipelago."

It appears including Australia and New Zealand in Oceania is debatable. For a long time, FIFA (the world governing body for football/soccer) had Australia in Oceania. Now it is in the Asian Confederation. New Zealand is still part of FIFA's Oceania zone. I doubt that Australia is a part of Asia either. FIFA has Israel in the European zone so I do not think FIFA is good at geography. Australia is a continent all by itself so I guess it does not matter if it is part of Oceania or not but I think it is.

Hawaii is also debated. The same Wikipedia article notes, "Hawaii is the northern corner of the Polynesian triangle and is generally included in Oceania, though politically it is part of the United States." I find it hard to argue that Hawaii is not in Oceania. The fact that it is part of the United States has no impact on physical geography. The Canary Islands are an integral part of Spain but they are still in Africa. Hawaii is no different.

I do not even know how to approach border areas such as Indonesia, Papua New Guineas, and East Timor. They look like they could be Oceania or Asia.

I guess it does not really matter that much. Oceania is a big place. A lot of what it is appears clear. The murky areas can be claimed as part of Oceania or not as people please. I guess I am one of the few people who actually spends time thinking about it. However, I can take comfort in the fact that some people are debating this issue even if it does not matter a great deal.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a middle school teacher, I too did some checking on the new continent are named "Oceania" and was amazed that about 10% of modern maps site the 7th continent as something referred to as Oceania... no real given for the change. Thanks for your insites. I am shortcutting your site for fututre reference. Thanks!