Some Hawaiians have maintained that until the eighteenth-century European explorations, Islanders had no notion of belonging to a particu- lar nation, race, ethnicity, or people, because Hawai‘i was cut off from even other Pacific Islands for hundreds of years (Campbell 2003 , 65 ). “The concept of nationality was completely alien to my people,” wrote Samuel Crowningburg-Amalu, a Honolulu Advertiser columnist and descendant of Hawaiian royalty who waxed philosophical on the Hawaiian cultural renaissance of the 1970 s; “There were only the Ali‘i [chiefs] who were
370 the contemporary pacifi c • 20:2 (2008) heaven born and the Maka‘ainana [commoners] who were born of Earth. No other” ( 1974 ). This idea of nationhood and “Hawaiian-ness,” born of the printed word, forms an important proprietary connection to aloha and the dis- course that forms around it with the arrival of immigrants and other set- tlers in the decades that follow. Both groups, however, construct the nation around aloha retrospectively. For the four decades until Hawai‘i became an American state in 1959 , Honolulu’s daily newspaper index contains no such subject heading as “aloha spirit.” After about 1962 , by contrast, “aloha spirit” became a burning subject of public debate, spawning a steady stream of newspaper reports about initiatives, declarations, public and private forums, and the ubiquitous letters to the editor from tourists who did, or did not, experience aloha on their visit—a genre unique to Hawai‘i that seems to owe its existence to the fact that aloha is indeed a newspaper subject category. This preoccupation continued through the 1970 s into the early 1980 s, marked always by a sense of anguish and urgency related to the question of loss: Is the aloha spirit lost? Is it dying? Does it exist? The need to construct a discourse around aloha in the decade after statehood clearly reflected anxieties about how different social groups stood to gain or lose after the change in Hawai‘i’s status. Community hopes and dreams, political goals, and historical traumas come to bear on such moments of transition, bringing to the surface internal conflicts that might have remained hidden. At the same time, there arose within Hawai‘i a new self-awareness about being part of, but different from, the union—an awareness brought home by the sudden influx of curious tour- ists attracted by newly affordable jet travel. It was the tourism industry, in fact, that issued the first warnings about a loss of aloha, which it “branded” as Hawai‘i’s most important com- petitive edge against other beach resorts worldwide. Aloha spirit is “that extra warmth that conveys a personal interest in satisfying the customer’s needs,” according to a University of Hawai‘i tourism professor who con- ducted a survey in 1962 to measure the growing impersonality of store clerks ( Honolulu Advertiser 1962 ). Among residents, by contrast, debate about the aloha spirit evokes something quite different. As a way of life said to be lost or dying, it is associated with “the good old days,” before
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