American Aloha

American Aloha: Cultural Tourism and the Negotiation of Tradition

Heather A. Diamond
Copyright Date: 2008
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    American Aloha
    Book Description:

    At the 1989 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, throngs of visitors gathered on the National Mall to celebrate Hawai‘i’s multicultural heritage through its traditional arts. The "edu-tainment" spectacle revealed a richly complex Hawai‘i few tourists ever see and one never before or since replicated in a national space. The program was restaged a year later in Honolulu for a local audience and subsequently inspired several spin-offs in Hawai‘i. In both Washington, D.C., and Honolulu, the program instigated a new paradigm for cultural representation. Based on archival research and extensive interviews with festival organizers and participants, this innovative cross-disciplinary study uncovers the behind-the-scenes negotiations and processes that inform the national spectacle of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Intersecting the fields of museum studies, folklore studies, Hawaiian studies, performance studies, cultural studies, and American studies, American Aloha supplies a nuanced analysis of how the carefully crafted staging of Hawai‘i’s cultural diversity was used to serve a national narrative of utopian multiculturalism—one that collapsed social inequities and tensions, masked colonial history, and subordinated indigenous politics—while empowering Hawai‘i’s traditional artists and providing a model for cultural tourism that has had long-lasting effects. Heather Diamond deftly positions the 1989 program within a history of institutional intervention in the traditional arts of Hawai‘i’s ethnic groups as well as in relation to local cultural revivals and the tourist industry. By tracing the planning, fieldwork, site design, performance, and aftermath stages of the program, she examines the uneven processes through which local culture is transformed into national culture and raises questions about the stakes involved in cultural tourism for both culture bearers and culture brokers.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6141-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Note on Names
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    During the last week of June and first week of July 1989, a visitor to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., could have been transported to some intriguing destinations, including the Caribbean, the Great Plains, the Mississippi Delta, and the American Pacific. That year, the thirteenth annual Festival of American Folklife (FAF; renamed the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 1998) juxtaposed four programs: French traditions in America, the Caribbean, Plains Indians, and Hawai‘i. The French and Caribbean programs honored the two-hundredth anniversary of the French Revolution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The Hawai‘i program marked the thirtieth anniversary...

  8. Chapter 1 Cultural Intervention in America’s Eden
    (pp. 12-60)

    The 1989 Festival of American Folklife (FAF) in Washington, D.C., began, as had its predecessors, with an opening ceremony attended by dignitaries, officials, and participants. Governor John Waihee, Hawai‘i’s first and only Native Hawaiian governor, set the tone for the Hawai‘i program in his opening speech. Program staff members recall that it brought tears of pride to everyone involved. Waihee was a charismatic speaker, and the following portion of his speech was excerpted and preserved in a later SFF promotional film.

    Because we are more than wonderful weather or beautiful beaches or powerful volcanoes. We are a people. We are...

  9. Chapter 2 Finding and Defining Traditional Hawai‘i
    (pp. 61-97)

    The 1989 Hawai‘i program in Washington, D.C., lasted for only ten days, but it was over a year and a half in the making. Fundamental to the festival-making process was the six-month-long “fieldwork phase”—the research-based process determining which tradition bearers and what traditions would be selected to represent Hawai‘i in the national arena of the Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife. Widely constructed as an exotic American playground, Hawai‘i was an ideal candidate for a Smithsonian makeover and a guaranteed draw. Furthermore, the state’s complex pluralism—the only state purported to be without a majority population—made it an ideal...

  10. Chapter 3 Interpreting an Authentic “Sense of Place”
    (pp. 98-133)

    Each year just prior to the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival (SFF), the National Mall is a fenced-in flurry of activity as construction crews barrel about in trucks and carts, scurrying to get tents hoisted, stages and backdrops built, signs mounted. Electrical generators must be set up to run stage equipment and lights, food vendors and portable toilets must be set up, and most of the CFCH staff physically moves into portable trailers on site that become temporary offices. Elsewhere, the annual book of the Festival must be completed, and supplies must be obtained and delivered for everyone from cooks to...

  11. Chapter 4 Performing “The Other Side of the Island”
    (pp. 134-174)

    Prior to the opening of the 1989 Festival, the Hawai‘i program production crew had worked hard to transform the physical site into a sensory experience that evoked the islands, and the results must have been effective. One longtime Festival volunteer reminiscing fourteen years later recalled that “it looked like Hawai‘i,” although Hawai‘i was a destination he had never visited.¹ And in many ways the site must have evoked Hawai‘i for arriving participants as well as visitors. Potted palms and the sight and scent of tropical flowers were everywhere. Despite its location in the middle of an area that stretched from...

  12. Chapter 5 Beyond the Festival Afterglow
    (pp. 175-212)

    In the summer of 2003 I traveled to Waimea, Kaua‘i, to meet some of the surviving members of the Waimea Hawaiian Church Choir who had performedhīmenichoral music at the Festival. When I arrived at the house of Miriam Kaleipua Pahulehua, a crowd of relatives was busily tending animuacross the dirt road while the elders sat and enjoyed the shade. Soon after I had introduced my husband and myself, Miriam invited us to her grandson’s wedding the following day. The wedding was held in the tiny Waimea Hawaiian Church, and the weddinglū‘auwas held down the...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 213-218)

    In 2002, on my first visit to the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, I asked Diana Parker if she thought the Folklife Festival was subversive. Her immediate reply was, “God, I hope so!” For many reasons, I think she is right. After all, in 1989 one could step out of the Museum of Natural History, where Hawaiians were still portrayed as artifacts of pre-history, or out of the National Portrait Gallery, where art appears as great masters in gilt frames, and see real people from Hawai‘i practicing beautiful and meaningful living traditions. I think that qualifies as subversion....

  14. Notes
    (pp. 219-238)
  15. Glossary of Foreign Words
    (pp. 239-240)
  16. References
    (pp. 241-250)
  17. Index
    (pp. 251-262)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 263-264)