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Oh, Say, Can You See: The Semiotics of the Military in Hawai’i

Series: Borderlines
Volume: 10
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 292
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  • Book Info
    Oh, Say, Can You See
    Book Description:

    In Hawaiian daily life few residents see the military at all-it is hidden in plain sight. This paradox of invisibility and visibility, of the available and the hidden, is the subject of Oh, Say, Can You See?, which maps the power relations involving gender, race, and class that define Hawai’i in relation to the national security state.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8826-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xviii)

    Everywhere you look in Hawai‘i, you see the military. Yet in daily life relatively few people in Hawai‘i actually see the military at all. It is hidden in plain sight.¹ This paradox of visibility and invisibility, of the available and the hidden, marks the terrain investigated in this book.²

    For something to be in plain sight it must mark a variety of spaces, projecting itself into a number of landscapes. For something to be hidden it must be indiscernible, camouflaged, inconspicuously folded into the fabric of daily life. The key to this incompatibility is a series of narratives of naturalization...

  2. 1 Traffic in Tropical Bodies
    (pp. 1-42)

    Hawai‘i has the dubious distinction of being the most militarized state in the United States (Albertini et al. 1980: i). Estimates of the military’s land holdings in the state, while often inexact, generally put the total at 5 to 10 percent.¹ By its own calculations, the military owns or controls 16 percent of the island of O‘ahu (see fig. 1). Other sources put the amount at 23 percent (First Hawaiian Bank 1993b: 14). The best-known holdings include Pearl Harbor Naval Base (hosting the Naval Shipyard, the Submarine Base, the Naval Supply Base, and Westloch Naval Magazine), Hickam Air Force Base,...

  3. 2 Looking in the Mirror at Fort DeRussy
    (pp. 43-76)

    The Fort DeRussy Army Museum is a rich source of the military’s understandings of itself and of Hawai‘i. The museum site is itself an arresting inscription of the military presence in Hawai‘i (fig. 6). It was once Battery Randolph, one of six low-silhouette steel-reinforced concrete emplacements housing fourteen-inch coastal artillery guns meant to protect O‘ahu. The two huge cannons were never used in combat or much in practice because when they were fired “windows would shatter across Waikiki, crockery would leap off shelves, and tourists would whine” (Burlingame 1990: B-1). Obsolete since the beginning of the Second World War, the...

  4. 3 Constructing and Contesting the Frame at Fort DeRussy
    (pp. 77-106)

    The military’s raison d’être in Hawai‘i (and elsewhere) is to guarantee national security, that is, the military exists in order to fight and win wars. Yet these two figurations of the military’s mission—waging war successfully versus defending national security—are not, after all, the same. There is both interdependence and incompatibility between the discourse of war and the discourse of national security as ways of representing the military’s legitimacy. The frictions and the attachments between the two can be seen in the different actions, metaphors, narratives, loci of responsibility—contrasting world constructions, in fact—that are associated with each....

  5. 4 Remembering and Forgetting at Punchbowl National Cemetery
    (pp. 107-132)

    Locally known as Punchbowl Cemetery, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu is the burial site for military personnel killed in the Pacific in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, and for veterans of those wars. Visitors enter the cemetery, located in a hot, dry part of the city, by way of a winding road that climbs around the outside of the crater. As they ascend, the seaward side offers a handsome vista of the central part of the city. Night-blooming cereus and other succulents grow easily along the road, nearly obscuring the black lava...

  6. 5 Seeing as Believing at the Arizona Memorial
    (pp. 133-154)

    Hawaiian Sam Ka‘ai’s spatial imaginary of the continental United States is as anoceanof land containing “strange islands” such as Walla Walla, Chattanooga, Houston, and Detroit. He contrasts these with his “cities of the Pacific”: Rapa Nui, Vavau, Moloka‘i, Tongatapu, O‘ahu, Aotearoa. Where mainland dwellers solve problems with “longer roads and percentages,” island dwellers walk on the water, “part of a voyaging group who . . . knitted themselves into the elements of their environment” (Ka‘ai 1987). An island, he says, is a precious, small thing that cannot be totally used. A postage stamp where dwelling can only occur...

  7. 6 The Pedagogy of Citizenship
    (pp. 155-198)

    Citizenship in the national security state is located in a militarized triangle of gender, race, and class practices. It is a space of membership and marginality, an uneven space in which some dissension is audible but generally feeble in relation to the hegemonic forces it contests. Dissenting voices are weak in that their traditions are often underthematized, their resources sparse, their languages undeveloped. They are also weak in that dissent itself is confused with weakness, for the dominant story is about strength, might, and inordinate power. Civic virtues such as freedom, equality, and citizenship are threaded into the militarized national...