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The Aloha State: Place Names and the Anti-conquest of Hawai‘i

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Place names in the Hawaiian Islands reveal a transformation from being reflections of Hawaiian geographic discourse to being encoded within Western approaches to knowledge, commodification of the environment, and control of territory. In the course of this transformation, the language/order of the native peoples was displaced and subordinated to that of Western powers, ultimately the U.S. This process was part of the greater economic, political, cultural, and discursive transformation of the Islands since Western contact. This essay explores the transformation from Hawaiian political and cultural economy into Western-capitalist forms, using place names to elucidate the change in geographic meaning that accompanied this shift. In particular, the role of place names within colonial discourse is analyzed in terms of the imposition of logos—order, knowledge, language—onto a space rendered passive, unknowing, and feminized. That Hawaiian names themselves remain relatively intact while their use, meaning, and context has changed is understood through Pratt's notion of “anti-conquest” as expressed in the promotion of things Hawaiian once Hawaiians themselves were removed from power.

Keywords: Hawai‘i; Place names; anti-conquest; discourse; logos

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Sustainable Development Information Network

Publication date: 1999-03-01

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