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Brilliantly mixing geology, folklore, music, cultural commentary, and history, Gary Y. Okihiro overturns the customary narrative in which the United States acts upon and dominates Hawai'i.
Instead, Island World depicts the islands' press against the continent, endowing America's story with fresh meaning. Okihiro's reconsidered history reveals Hawaiians fighting in the Civil War, sailing on nineteenth-century New England ships, and living in pre-gold rush California. He points to Hawai'i's lingering effect on twentieth-century American culture—from surfboards, hula, sports, and films, to art, imagination, and racial perspectives—even as the islands themselves succumb slowly to the continental United States.
In placing Hawai'i at the center of the national story, Island World rejects the premise that continents comprise "natural" states while islands are "tiny spaces," without significance, to be acted upon by continents. An astonishingly compact tour de force, this book not only revises the way we think about islands, oceans, and continents, it also recasts the way we write about space and time.
In the first volume of a projected trilogy, Okihiro, professor of international and public affairs at Columbia, largely succeeds in a radical approach to historiography as applied to Hawaii. He defies the standard linear progression and view of "humans as subjects with volition without regard for the agencies of other life-forms...." Okihiro combines human history, natural history and mythic Hawaiian folklore with interpretations of how Hawaiian cultural artifacts (such as surfboards) infiltrated American culture and vice versa. He likewise depicts the lives of Hawaiians who wound up in North America, either by choice or involuntarily. In young islanders taken to be Westernized at special schools, Okihiro sees a parallel to similar cultural cleansing (or "schooling for subservience") of Native Americans. He also narrates the slow decimation of the rich and varied Hawaiian musical tradition reduced to clichés, à la Don Ho. Thus, Okihiro places the story of Hawaii in direct and constant relation to the story of the United States. Some readers may find this eclectic mix of facts hard to follow and synthesize, but all will come away intrigued and enlightened. 57 b&w photos, 6 maps. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
1. Regions of Fire
2. Oceania's Expanse
3. Pagan Priest
4. Schooling for Subservience
5. Hawaiian Diaspora
6. Poetry in Motion
7. Islands and Continents