Terrains of Occupation and De-occupation in Hawai`i: Mālama `Āina, Recognition, and Cultural Politics in the Saddle Region

Authors: Christine Rosenfeld*, George Mason University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Hawai`i, occupation, cultural politics, recognition, landscape
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Congressional B, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In Spring of 2018, the term mālama `āina, which can be translated as ‘to care for or protect the land’, was used in reference to the failure of the Hawai`i Department of Land and Natural Resources to properly manage Pōhakuloa Training Area, a military training base in the Saddle region of Hawai`i Island. Using this as a starting point, this paper investigates the context of this ruling by examining the evolution of US-Hawai`i relations and treatment of cultural difference, which has included exclusionary assimilation, inclusionary assimilation, and a politics of recognition. As the US-Hawai`i relationship evolved, the circulation of an extractivist ethic guiding land use, meaning, and management was responsible for carving the Saddle into a terrain that maintained American occupation. The terrain of occupation was/is propped up by objects that animate a politics of recognition, including environmental impact statements, the `Imiloa Astronomy Center, and the Saddle Road Interpretive Corridor. These objects dialectically include and discard Hawaiian meanings of land and an acknowledgment of US occupation. Overall, I assert that the Saddle landscape and the objects that have shaped it have forged terrains of occupation and terrains of de-occupation in a double sense: 1) The occupation and de-occupation of a mālama `āina ethic by/from an extractivist ethic, and 2) The occupation and de-occupation of Hawai`i by/from the US.

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