Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty

Land, Sex, and the Colonial Politics of State Nationalism

Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: 6 illustrations Published: September 2018

American Studies, Native and Indigenous Studies, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

In Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty J. Kehaulani Kauanui examines contradictions of indigeneity and self-determination in U.S. domestic policy and international law. She theorizes paradoxes in the laws themselves and in nationalist assertions of Hawaiian Kingdom restoration and demands for U.S. deoccupation, which echo colonialist models of governance. Kauanui argues that Hawaiian elites' approaches to reforming and regulating land, gender, and sexuality in the early nineteenth century that paved the way for sovereign recognition of the kingdom complicate contemporary nationalist activism today, which too often includes disavowing the indigeneity of the Kanaka Maoli (Indigenous Hawaiian) people. Problematizing the ways the positing of the Hawaiian Kingdom's continued existence has been accompanied by a denial of U.S. settler colonialism, Kauanui considers possibilities for a decolonial approach to Hawaiian sovereignty that would address the privatization and capitalist development of land and the ongoing legacy of the imposition of heteropatriarchal modes of social relations.


"Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty." — F. Ng, Choice

"Kauanui’s study constitutes a significant addition to the existing anthropological and historical scholarship that engages with events taking place in the nineteenth century in the islands, and scholarship linked to the contepmorary sovereignty movement, complementing the existing scholarship in a nuanced and commanding way. There is no doubt that this study will be of interest to scholars in the field, and its varied insights will constitute an enduring gift to the decolonization movement and its undertaking, both in the islands and more broadly amongst Indigenous communities worldwide." — Naomi Alisa Calnitsky, Anthropology Book Forum

"Our understanding of the depths, distinctions, and development of Hawaiian culture will improve greatly as more scholars have a nuanced knowledge of the Hawaiian language and can more thoroughly explore sources for the voices and agency of Kanaka Maoli. This book sets such a solid launching point, and leaves the reader wanting to know more." — H. Gelfand, Pacific Historical Review

"Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty is yet another highly significant and extremely well-researched and theoretically contextualized contribution to the rapidly growing body of literature by native Hawaiian scholars on their history, culture, and political struggles." — Jonathan Y. Okamura, Journal of American History

"Through Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty, Kauanui paves the way for a new generation of Indigenous feminists, especially within Hawai'i, to think critically about our past in ways that can change the present." — Halena Kapuni-Reynolds, Hypatia Reviews Online

"[Kauanu] is to be commended for her diligence in both scholarship and activism. The book is a fine example of scholarship demonstrating the intersectionality of nationality, ethnicity, and gender in a meaningful and robust manner." — David Fazzino, Pacific Affairs

"In this deeply engaging book, J. Kehaulani Kauanui unpacks paradoxes inherent in past and contemporary assertions of Hawaiian sovereignty. . . . While Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty is set in Hawai‘i, it will prove useful for anyone interested in the global politics of Indigeneity and settler colonialism—in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Japan, the Pacific Islands, and Israel/Palestine." — Tomonori Sugimoto, PoLAR

"An ambitious and provocative work of decolonial scholarship." — Joshua Bartlett, American Indian Quarterly

Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty is a much-needed, incisive, yet eas­ily accessible addition to conversations in academia and activism alike. Kauanui’s work calls on Kanaka ‘Oiwi to face the settler-colonial complexi­ties and paradoxes embedded within our histories and our current political movements while also providing us with guidance toward reimagined futu­rities that are truly decolonized and free from the heteropatriarchal settler-colonial structures and mindsets.” — Natalee Kehaulani Bauer, Native American and Indigenous Studies

Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty offers a careful delineation of the centrality of heteropatriarchy to both imperial-colonial and nation-state structures. Using the concepts of biopower and biopolitics, J. Kēhaulani Kauanui powerfully recounts the history of the (incomplete) subjugation of women and suppression of Native sexual practices as inherent parts of the establishment of the Hawaiian monarchy, revealing the paradox of ali‘i (chiefly elites) having to eradicate indigenous ways of life in order to gain recognition of Hawaiian sovereignty. She shows how this paradox continues today, as Christian evangelical ideology undergirds the discourse of restoring the Hawaiian Kingdom.” — Noenoe K. Silva, author of The Power of the Steel-tipped Pen: Reconstructing Native Hawaiian Intellectual History

Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty is at once devastating and gentle in its tough-minded critique of Indigenous political movements that avoid hard questions that arise from their own histories of exclusion, compromise, and elitism. Intrepid books like these are the ones that not only point us toward the future, but show us what it will take to build it.” — Robert Warrior, Hall Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Culture, University of Kansas


Availability: In stock
Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

J. Kehaulani Kauanui is Professor of American Studies and Anthropology at Wesleyan University, author of Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity, also published by Duke University Press, and editor of Speaking of Indigenous Politics: Conversations with Activists, Scholars, and Tribal Leaders.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Abbreviations  ix
Preface  xi
Acknowledgments  xv
Introduction. Contradictory Sovereignty  1
1. Contested Indigeneity: Between Kingdom and "Tribe"  43
2. Properties of Land: That Which Feeds  76
3. Gender, Marriage, and Coverture: A New Proprietary Relationship  113
4. "Savage: Sexualities  153
Conclusion. Decolonial Challenges to the Legacies of Occupation and Settler Colonialism  194
Notes  203
Glossary of Hawaiian Words and Phrases  235
Bibliography  237
Index  263
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-7075-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-7049-9
Publicity material