A Broken Heart and Fear of the Bulldozer: Ghosts, Homelessness, and Insurgent Sovereignty in Hawai‘i

Authors: Laurel Mei-Singh*, University of Hawaii - Manoa
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Queer and Trans Geographies, Social Geography
Keywords: Hawai'i, homelessness, sovereignty, Indigenous
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 30
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


According to recent estimates, Hawai‘i has the second highest rate of homelessness in the United States. Advocates for those without formal housing refer to these communities as “houseless” rather than homeless because their intimate relations with place and expansive practices of kinship provide an adequate home for many. This article focuses on the Wai‘anae Boat Harbor, an interdependent and self-governing village of approximately 250 houseless people in Hawai‘i. It explores the lingering trauma of dispossession as an active presence that haunts their insurgent practices of sovereignty in the present. Such practices aim to forge a liberated future. Yet rather than exercising a clean break from colonialism, the haunting of dispossession and premature death as well as expansive practices of queer kinship actively forge the Wai‘anae Boat Harbor as a sovereign space. This insurgent sovereignty both works within and confronts the enclosures and devolutions that uphold hegemonic state forms. Their statecraft demonstrates that officially recognized states do not hold a monopoly on the legitimate use of political force within a given territory; rather, plural and unstable forms of sovereignty animate the state.

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