Date of Award
In this paper, I reconceptualize sugarcane plantations in Hawai‘i outside of a narrative of progress to explore the dynamisms of Hawai‘i Japanese American identity. These dynamisms emerge from the perspectives and family histories that Hawai‘i Japanese Americans shared with me in interviews, as part of research conducted in O‘ahu, Hawai‘i in 2016. To situate these dynamisms, I first focus on the sugarcane plantations of Hawai‘i, which are often framed as the foundation of Hawai‘i Japanese American identity. Drawing upon Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s (2015) theoretical framing of mushrooms, I interpret plantations as mobile and dynamic "assemblages" that move beyond their capitalist peaks. As such, I follow pieces of plantations outside of their physical and temporal boundaries to other moments of formation and performance of Hawai‘i Japanese American identity. The plantation is embedded in these moments—in celebrating the Buddhist festival Obon, attending Japanese language schools, and consuming the Japanese animated medium, anime. However, in these moments’ movement through space, time, and social networks, Hawai‘i Japanese American identity is continually redefined and reinvented. As such, I contend that these moments become uniquely important in rethinking the “lively interplays” (Hackney 2002, 213) in and amongst the intersections of Hawai‘i Japanese Americans and Japan—as an ancestral homeland and as a contemporary nation state.
Saito, Nalani Noel Yukie, "Away from the Plantation: An Ethnography of Hawai'i Japanese American Identitiy in Honolulu Hawai'i" (2017). Dickinson College Honors Theses. Paper 259.