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Beyond EthnicityNew Politics of Race in Hawai'i$
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Camilla Fojas, Rudy P. Guevarra, and Nitasha Tamar Sharma

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780824869885

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824869885.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM HAWAII SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.hawaii.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Hawaii University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in HSO for personal use.date: 23 September 2021

Polynesia Is a Project, Not a Place

Polynesia Is a Project, Not a Place

Polynesian Proximities to Whiteness in Cloud Atlas and Beyond

(p.21) Chapter 1 Polynesia Is a Project, Not a Place
Beyond Ethnicity

Maile Arvin

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines the Western idea that Polynesians are an almost white race and the significant ideological work this racial construction does for naturalizing both settler colonialism and white supremacy in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific. The central argument is that Polynesia has been the target of a logic of possession through whiteness, whereby the identification of Polynesians as being in close proximity to whiteness has allowed white settlers to feel entitled to possession of Polynesian lands, culture, and bodies. The chapter analyzes the origin of this logic in the history of social science—particularly examining the complicated position of Te Rangihiroa, a Maori anthropologist who upheld the ideal of Polynesians being properly classified as white. It then turns to a more recent example of the representation of Pacific Islanders as almost white in the 2012 movie Cloud Atlas. The Cloud Atlas analysis considers how anti-blackness, techno-Orientalism and anti-indigeneity converge in the film’s universalist narrative about human transcendence. Overall, the chapter seeks not simply to “correct” false images about Polynesians, but to argue for the hard work of recognizing and challenging settler colonialism and white supremacy especially in the context of ongoing celebrations of Hawaiʻi as a supposedly “race-free” melting pot.

Keywords:   Polynesia, settler colonialism, whiteness, Maori, Cloud Atlas, anti-indigenous, anti-blackness

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