Military Wasteland: Organized Abandonment in Hawai'i

Authors: Laurel Mei-Singh*, Princeton University
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Land Use, Pacific Islands
Keywords: Abolition Ecologies
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Napoleon C3, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This presentation analyzes a 9,000 acre base in Lualualei Valley with some of the most fertile soil in Hawai‘i that is today abandoned and derelict. This organized abandonment (Ruth Wilson Gilmore, 2008) represents both the limits of colonization and a form of land and population management through an “economy of partitions.” Developing the notion of an economy of partitions through engagement with Gilmore's concept of organized abandonment, this paper contends that an economy of partitions is premised on the division of land and the corresponding transformation of ways of life. It accomplishes this through the transformation of land tenure systems, displacement, the disruption of subsistence practices, and environmental degradation. In particular, the presentation focuses on the unfulfilled promise of the Base Realignment and Closure Acts (BRAC rounds) in the 1990s, when the military relocated much activity and equipment from Lualualei, but held onto its land. It traces this moment at the end of the Cold War to the present day, marked by seemingly endless war, joblessness, and poverty along racial lines. Because of this, enlisting in the military presents a viable path for stability and economic mobility for many. Military occupation thus represents an environmental project that encloses land while producing conditions of poverty and dependence on military enterprises.

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