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Abstract

This paper explores Hawaiian racial identity formation using María Lugones’s metaphor of curdling as a guiding theme. I aim to show that the accepted definition of “native Hawaiian” is based on a purity model of race that serves to undermine the unity of the Hawaiian Nation. I begin by outlining the pre-contact understanding of Hawaiian identity. This conception of identity was subsequently altered through various political agendas to fit within a Western/European notion of “pure” racial identity. I argue that continuing to use the imposed definition of “native Hawaiian” makes the fragmentation of Hawaiian identity and society difficult to overcome. Additionally, I offer a discussion of the gendered rhetoric of some Hawaiian activists that complicates the effort to regain a precolonial cultural identity that was largely egalitarian. Finally, I suggest that a rejection of racial purity and a rearticulation of Hawaiian identity that recaptures pre-contact, strategic notions of belonging by way of Lugones’s “impure resistance” can set the stage for a more inclusive Hawaiian Nation.


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