Studies: Pacific Literature

If mapping is often a colonial enterprise by which nations, scholars and artists have made territorial claims, then we will use a cultural studies approach to unmap the multiply layered narratives through which land in Hawai‘i is represented.  We will consider the colonial implications of these mappings as well as the ways that Kanaka ʻŌiwi oral maps and contemporary anticolonial mapping projects envision a more sustainable future for Hawai‘i.  We will be using the essays in An Atlas of Radical Cartography to help us to understand imaginative ways of charting political transformation as well as some of the problematic assumptions of mapmaking.  As we examine geographical, literary and thematic maps that show us how land is wrapped in relations of power, we will foreground the materiality of land and the people it sustains, both often obscured in maps.

We will begin by examining the mapping of two particular land struggles in Hawai‘i, focusing in particular on Lualualei and the Māui moʻolelo and Mauna a Wākea and the Poliʻahu moʻolelo.  We will consider the different maps generated in the proposal to build a light industrial park in Lualualei, the birthplace of Māui, the proposal to construct the Thirty-Meter Telescope, an eighteen-story observatory on the sacred lands of Mauna a Wākea, and maps used by restoration projects at Hoʻoulu ʻĀina in Kalihi and Paepae o Heʻeia at the Hale o Meheanu fishpond in Heʻeia Uli.  We will be examining rhetorical representations and maps of land in environmental impact statements, and we will contrast those representations with the ways that those who seek to protect sacred land use moʻolelo (stories/histories) to draw their own maps to support the people who are sustained by these agricultural lands and sacred cultural sites.

We will then turn to Hi‘iakaikapoliopele’s epic travels through the islands, mapping for us the significance of the stories and land features of each place and the relationships Kanaka ‘Ōiwi continue to have with these places.  We will also be reading texts by Andrade that provide more complex views of the multiple layers to any map, from mo‘olelo of land to the political changes that have taken place in Kanaka ʻŌiwi and settler laws governing land use.

Along the path of Hiʻiakaʻs footsteps now run highways and harbors and the projected rail.  As the moʻolelo of these places continue to remind us of the living land beneath the concrete, we will begin to map out a more sustainable future for Hawaiʻi.  Maps of urban spaces also helps us to understand and transform the social relations between different groups.  We will learn to read cultural impact assessment documents for environmental impact statements of different proposed development projects as archives of literatures on specific places as we will also be looking at restoration projects—of loʻi kalo, loko iʻa and ʻauwai–that take place not only in rural settings, but also in urban places.

The last third of the class will be spent on a collaborative class research project on mapping sites in Hawai‘i.  Students will select their own sites and will direct their research toward designing their own maps that will help to tell the stories of these places.


Required Texts (available at the UH Bookstore):

  • Ho‘oulumāhiehie, trans. Puakea Nogelmeier, The Epic Tale of Hi‘iakaikapoliopele
  • Elspeth P. Sterling and Catherine C. Summers, Sites of Oahu
  • Candace Fujikane, Mapping Abundance Against the Wastelands of Capital: Indigenous and Critical Settler Cartographies in Hawaiʻi
  • Patricia Grace, Potiki
  • Moses Manu, He Moolelo Kaao o Keaomelemele / The Legend of Keaomelemele

Students will conduct independent research and will be assign their research findings as course readings for the last third of the course.

A course reader will be available at Professional Image (3520 Waialae Ave, near Boston’s North End Pizaa).

Course Requirements

  • 15-page research project (35%)
  • Three-page project proposal with annotated bibliography that will grow into the research project (10%)
  • 4-page paper on a mapping problem (15%)
  • One presentation on a map (10%)
  • Short assignments that will become parts of your research project (20%)
  • Peer-editing (5%)
  • Final exam (5%)