Winner of the 2007 Chicago Folklore Prize
"Legendary Hawai'i is insightful, provocative, and thought-provoking. It forcefully illuminates the implications of tourism for a culture, and the ways in which seemingly simple transactions, such as a tourist brochure to bring tourists and dollars to the island, can work in insidious ways to actually undermine the very people it seems to be celebrating."—Journal of Folklore ResearchHawaiian legends figure greatly in the image of tropical paradise that has come to represent Hawai'i in popular imagination. But what are we buying into when we read these stories as texts in English-language translations? Cristina Bacchilega poses this question in her examination of the way these stories have been adapted to produce a legendary Hawai'i primarily for non-Hawaiian readers or other audiences.
"Legendary Hawai'i and the Politics of Place is an examination of cultural change through textual analysis, and within those boundaries it accomplishes quite a bit. . . . Bacchilega's close reading of texts and her nuanced explications of photographs are persuasive and reach important conclusions about cultural changes occurring in Hawaii, which may also apply to other colonized regions."—Journal of American History
"A work of vigilant scholarship and elegant exposition that unsettles long-taken-for-granted genres, modes of representation, narrative codes and ascribed roles."—Hawaiian Journal of History
"A fascinating, carefully researched, and accessible look at how indigenous Hawaiian stories were appropriated by non-Hawaiian scholars and writers and used to promote a 'legendary Hawai'i' that misrepresents Hawai'i and its indigenous people and their ways of viewing reality. The book is written with passion and commitment and restores to the original stories and their creators/tellers their true mana."—Albert Wendt
With an understanding of tradition that foregrounds history and change, Bacchilega examines how, following the 1898 annexation of Hawai'i by the United States, the publication of Hawaiian legends in English delegitimized indigenous narratives and traditions and at the same time constructed them as representative of Hawaiian culture. Hawaiian mo'olelo were translated in popular and scholarly English-language publications to market a new cultural product: a space constructed primarily for Euro-Americans as something simultaneously exotic and primitive and beautiful and welcoming. To analyze this representation of Hawaiian traditions, place, and genre, Bacchilega focuses on translation across languages, cultures, and media; on photography, as the technology that contributed to the visual formation of a westernized image of Hawai'i; and on tourism as determining postannexation economic and ideological machinery.
In a book with interdisciplinary appeal, Bacchilega demonstrates both how the myth of legendary Hawai'i emerged and how this vision can be unmade and reimagined.
Cristina Bacchilega is Professor of English at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. She is the author of Postmodern Fairy Tales: Gender and Narrative Strategies, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.