On Kauai I accompanied my grandparents to look at the grounds of the

On kauai i accompanied my grandparents to look at the

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grandparents to look at the grounds of the Princeville Hotel with itsgleaming marble floors, manmade lake, floating swans, and hotel work-ers wearing colonial livery and pith helmets leading carriages and drafthorses. As Hawaiian-ness became things to be marketed more and morecheaply, Hawaiians could be exploited in their own land without evenbeing really visible to the wealthy traveler.
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dialogue 2 hall409Kitsch, however, remains highly visible, from aloha shirts to tiki barsto Tin Pan Alley hapa-haole songs to Round Table’s “Maui Mama” pine-apple and ham pizza. This has significant political implications, becauseby making Hawaiian-ness seem ridiculous, kitsch functions to underminesovereignty struggles in a very fundamental way. A culture without dignitycannot be conceived of as having sovereign rights, and the repeated mar-keting of kitsch Hawaiian-ness leads to non-Hawaiians’ misunderstand-ing and degradation of Hawaiian culture and history. Bombarded by suchkitsch along with images of leisure and paradise, non-Hawaiians fail totake Hawaiian sovereignty seriously and Hawaiian activism remains invis-ible to the mainstream; for example, Professor JKëhaulaniKauanui’s aca-demic colleagues are unable to grasp that she actually makes exhaustingwork trips to Hawai‘i (Kauanui, pers comm, 1999). I have had similarexperiences in writing grants for Hawai‘i-based projects; the implicationis that we are somehow scamming free vacations. In another example, theword “aloha” has been so commodified, distorted, and exploited that itsuse has provoked laughter among non-Hawaiians in the context of tikibars and campy comedy routines. Unpacking the layers of colonial accre-tion on a foundational cultural concept is a daunting task. The frivolity and omnipresence of kitsch images of Hawai‘i cover overa history of massive death, colonial dispossession, and attempted culturaldestruction. And yet another factor that enables the kitschy transforma-tions of Hawaiians and Hawaiian culture is that unlike other stigmatizedgroups in the United States, Hawaiians are not feared, even though, withour warrior history, our popular image could easily have been different.Instead, our friendliness has been a major selling point for the touristindustry for more than a century, possibly because the death toll from col-onization was so one-sided. “Hawaiian at Heart”Outside of Hawai‘i, however, Hawaiian-ness has remained very much invogue. As Hawaiian culture in the form of music and hula becomes acommodity, others buy Hawaiian-ness. On the North American continentnon-Hawaiians are greatly interested in Hawaiian language, music, andso on. There is nothing wrong with this as such—and this financial andartistic support enables the survival of many musicians and entertainers—but I find it interesting that non-Hawaiians become interested in Hawai-ians through the marketing of products, rather than through issues of land
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410the contemporary pacific 17:2 (2005)rights, oceanography and navigation, farming and fishing, or other pos-sible vectors.
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  • Fall '08
  • Warner,S
  • Native Hawaiians, Hawaiians, hawaiian people, Hawaiian culture

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