Ominous metaphors: the political poetics of native Hawaiian identity

Scanlan, Emma (2017) Ominous metaphors: the political poetics of native Hawaiian identity. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This thesis examines poetry by Native Hawaiian activists written between 1970 and 2016 in order to develop a detailed understanding of the multi-faceted ways poetry incorporates, transmits and enacts contemporary political identity. Whilst fundamentally a literary analysis, my methodology is discursive, and draws on a range of critical approaches, archival research and interviews with poets, in order to address why poetry is such a powerful form of resistance to American hegemony.
By reading contemporary poetry as an expression of deeply held cultural and political beliefs, this thesis suggests that writing and performing poetry are powerful forms of political resistance. Adopting a lens that is attentive to both the indigenous and colonial influences at play in Hawaiʻi, it elucidates the nuanced ways that traditional literary techniques enter contemporary Native Hawaiian poetry as vehicles for cultural memory and protest. Attention to the continuities between traditional Hawaiian epistemology and the ways those same methods and values are deployed in twentieth and twenty-first century poetry, means this thesis is a part of a growing body of work that endeavours to understand indigenous literature from the perspective of its own cultural and political specificity.
The introduction establishes the historical and critical context of the Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement and the Hawaiian Renaissance. It outlines the main developments in Native Hawaiian literary criticism since the late 1960s, including the reclaiming of traditional narratives and the privileging of indigenous epistemologies. Chapters One to Seven proceed chronologically, each addressing a particular collection, anthology or body of work. Chapter One focuses on Wayne Kaumualiʻi Westlake’s radical rejection of Westernised Waikīkī, whilst Chapter Two explores the anthologies Mālama: Hawaiian Land and Water and HoʻiHoʻi Hou: A Tribute to George Helm and Kimo Mitchell, in relation to the Sovereignty Movement’s dedication to Aloha ʻĀina (love the land). Chapters Three to Five deal with five poetry collections, two by Haunani-Kay Trask, and one each by Imaikalani Kalahele, Brandy Nālani McDougall and Māhealani Perez-Wendt. The chapters address how these poets articulate Native Hawaiian identity, nationalism and continuity through traditional moʻolelo (stories), which underpin the political beliefs of three generations of sovereignty activists. Chapters Six and Seven address contemporary performance poetry in both published and unpublished formats by Jamaica Osorio, David Kealiʻi MacKenzie, Noʻukahauʻoli Revilla and Kealoha, demonstrating how a return to embodied performance communicates aloha (love, compassion, grace). The conclusion, Chapter Eight, indicates projects that are already productively engaging Hawaiian epistemology in the areas of geography and science, and points towards developments in the digital humanities that could extend this indigenised methodology into literary studies, in order to further engage with the depth and multiplicity of storied landscapes in Hawaiʻi.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > English
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DU History of Oceania (South Seas) > DU520 Smaller island groups > DU620 Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii
P Language and Literature > PL Languages and literatures of Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceania > PL5001 Languages of Oceania
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0500 Poetry
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 05 Dec 2017 11:11
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:37

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