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Tourism in a Settler Colony: Case Studies of Oahu and Kauai

Authors: Kate Schlott*, CUNY - Graduate Center
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Cultural Geography, Political Geography
Keywords: Hawaii, settler colonialism, indigenous/native identity, island tourism
Session Type: Paper
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This paper utilizes a settler state approach to examine how social boundaries delineated by the state inform and contribute to Hawaii’s contemporary socioecological development. The increasing haole presence, growth of an immigrant labor class, a dwindling native population, and high rates of intermarriage in the nineteenth century permanently altered the demographic composition of the islands’ population. One aspect of a settler state society is the use of what Wolfe (2006) refers to as the “logic of elimination” in order to regulate who is considered indigenous or native, and who is not. The passage of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 (HHCA) drew boundaries around native and non-native identities, and created official categories of “Hawaiian” through the utilization of blood quantum technology for homesteading eligibility. Hawaii’s statehood was contingent on the adoption of the HHCA, further entrenching Hawaii in socioecological development that is supported by a settler colonial framework. Since statehood the tourism industry has been the economic engine of Hawaii, and as such it wields a significant amount of power, directly influencing development across the islands with the largest impacts seen on Oahu. This paper offers a comparative analysis of the tourism industry and its impacts on the islands of Oahu and Kauai in order to gain insight into the state’s role in advancing particular socioecological relationships for social groups in Hawaii.

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