Dilluchei (Lu-A) Kikuo (left) is a co-winner of the annual PPPA Best Paper for her essay “Republican Virtue and Klechibelau in the Face of Colonization: Machiavelli, Rousseau, the Belauan Civic Idea.” Lu-A wrote this paper as part of her work in Prof. Michael Forman (left) Senior Seminar course Winter Quarter, 2019. Three faculty members (Elizabeth Bruch, Charles Williams, and Sarah Hampson) reviewed papers nominated this year, and selected Lu-A’s, as well as Lucas Waggoner’s, for this year’s award.
Lu-A hails from the island nation of Palau. Beginning in the 16th Century, Palau was the object of colonization by Spain, Germany, Japan, and the United States, all of which sought to obliterate its institutions, values, and culture. The Republic of Palau attained independence in 1981, though it maintains a close relationship with the United States.
Lu-A’s course of study at UWT was heavily influenced by political theory and ethnic and gender studies. Her award-winning paper reflects this trajectory. The notion of republican virtue has a long tradition in Mediterranean and European political theory. In this tradition, liberty is understood in terms of laws oriented toward the common good and rooted in citizen action. But, the rule of law is a fragile thing and its main source of strength are public virtues such as the love of liberty and citizen engagement in the pursuit of the common good. Lu-A, however, saw something else in the idea of “civic virtue:” she saw the same core precepts found in Klechibelau, a very old idea in Palau.
Klechibelau literally translates into “the ways of Belauan life.” This “encompasses the mores, values, traditions, and customs of the Belauan culture and identity, all of which work together for the common good.” In her paper, Lu-A relies on canonical political theory sources (especially Machiavelli and Rousseau) to reconstruct the notion of republican virtue. She then argues that klechibelau, by offering similar resources, embodies Belauan notions of liberty and has played a role in preserving the Belauan way of life. While it has been much undermined by colonial practices, she argues for its renewal. “Republicanism and Klechibelau in the Face of Colonization” brings together Lu-A’s course of study and extends it in a completely new direction not only for her, but for the field of political theory.
More importantly, “Republicanism and Klechibelau in the Face of Colonization” also offers something new to the people of the Republic of Palau: a way of rooting new institutions in traditional values.
PPPA’s Senior Seminar (TPOLS 480) allows students to bring together with what they have learned in their course of study, and extend and deepen their knowledge into a new area. Lu-A’s paper is a superb example of this.