Between 1935 and 1942, over one hundred thirty young, mostly Native Hawaiian men (later known as the Hui Panalä'au) "colonized" five small islands in the Equatorial Pacific as employees of the US Departments of Commerce and Interior. Students and alumni from the Kamehameha Schools served exclusively in the first year, and their experiences largely structured the ways that the project was represented at the time and would be remembered later in a 2002 Bishop Museum exhibit. In this essay, I examine the ways that the bodies and memories of the Kamehameha colonists became fertile grounds for re-membering masculinities, a type of gendered memory work that facilitates the formation of group subjectivities through the coordination of personal memories, historical narratives, and bodily experiences and representations. The colonists embodied a Hawaiian-American masculinity that allowed a wide range of interlocutors and audiences to make (sometimes divergent) claims to racialized citizenship and gendered belonging. Their experiences spoke to the predicament of Hawaiian men working in and against US colonialism, and thus they enabled a collective re-membering of Hawaiian masculinities that helped counter notions of Hawaiian men's laziness, marginality, and absence, both in the political economy of the territory and the present-day movements for self-determination and decolonization.
The Contemporary Pacific – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Feb 11, 2007