Seminar in Literatures of Hawai‘i (CSAP, HAP)

Mo‘olelo Against the Fragile Fictions of the Settler State”


In this course, we will study literary, cultural and political mappings
of Hawai‘i through a range of genres, from critical texts on radical
cartography, Marxist geography, Kanaka ʻŌiwi oral maps, mo‘olelo of different
places in Hawai‘i, a novel, environmental impact statements, legal analyses of
land and water rights, community sustainability plans, visual texts (maps,
advertisements, political cartoons), a developer’s petition for rezoning, and
community activists’ use of mo‘olelo in their oral testimonies.  If
mapping is often a colonial enterprise by which administrators, 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.  Although the structural operations of invasion are
conducted through mapmaking and the settler state’s production of terra
nullius, mo‘olelo map more expansively the interconnectedness of Kānaka ‘Ōiwi
to places on the kulāiwi, the seas and the sky, all inextricably bound by the
akua, iwi kūpuna, mana, and genealogy.  We will bring together theory and
praxis to tease out the problematic assumptions of mapmaking, the contested
modalities of “ground truths,” and the ontological status of land that will
help to illuminate the rhetorical patterns and logic of the settler state that
we see in the maps and rhetoric generated in various final environmental impact
statements.  As we examine geographical, literary and thematic maps that
show us how the land is wrapped in relations of power, we will work toward
foregrounding the materiality of land and the people it sustains, both often
obscured in maps.

In the first half of the class, we will be reading accounts of
cartography that lay out both its historical function in the service of empire
and invasion and also its use by indigenous peoples and settler allies to
protect indigenous national and tribal lands. 
We will then turn to famous huaka‘i aloha ‘āina, including The Epic Tale of Hi‘iakaikapoliopele and
The Legend of Keaomelemele, to witness the akua as they shift between their land
and human kinolau, learning about the ways that Kanaka ‘Ōiwi have walked the
land as a map and the different modes of production, economies and social
relations that are mapped out in these moʻolelo.  The readings will then
focus on different cultural, political and literary texts about four places
under threat of erasure by urbanization: Lualualei, Pōhākea, Mauna a Wākea and
Kalihi (Mokauea Fishing Village).  As we examine the conditions of these
land struggles and the maps produced by them, we will also consider two
synchronic movements: the struggle against the settler colonial apparatuses of
the state under globalization, and an enactment of a future beyond the settler
state through restoration projects and affinity mapping that rearticulates the
social relations between Native peoples and non-Natives.

By the second half of the course, students will select their own project
places, and assigned theoretical texts on the syllabus will be supplemented by
texts selected by the students on these places, texts that encompass the
mo‘olelo and other literary representations of the place, its historical
narratives and the political controversies that have emerged from them. 
The students will present their work-in-progress on each place, leading toward
a final research project.

Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)
include an awareness of the contributions of Hawaiʻi literatures to the
formation of the contemporary field of English Studies, including such
subfields as literary cartography, rhetoric, indigenous land-based literacy and
visual literacy, an understanding of advanced research methods, written and
oral ability to place one’s own scholarly work within a broader critical conversations,
independent research using primary and secondary sources.


Required Texts (available at
Revolution Books)

  • Ho‘oulumāhiehie, trans. Puakea
    Nogelmeier, The Epic Tale of
  • Elspeth P. Sterling and Catherine C.
    Summers, Sites of Oahu
  • Carlos Andrade, Ha‘ena: Through the Eyes of the Ancestors
  • Gizelle Gajelonia, Thirteen Ways of Looking at TheBus
  • R. Zamora Linmark, Rolling the R’s
  • Candace Fujikane and Jonathan
    Okamura, eds., Asian Settler Colonialism:
    Local Governance to the Habits of
    Everyday Life in Hawai‘i
  • David Harvey, Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution
  • Mishuana Goeman, Mark Our Words: Native Women Mapping Their
  • Avery Gordon, et al., An Atlas of Radical Cartography;

reference texts:

  • Kepā Maly, Mauna Kea, the famous summit of
    the land
    (Mauna Kea, ka piko
    ka ʻāina)

  • Final
    Environmental Impact Assessment of Nānākuli Community Baseyard
  • Mapping Our Places: Voices from the Indigenous Communities Mapping


texts will be available at Professional Image during the 2nd week of

  • Moses Manu, The Legend of Keaomelemele
  • A course reader will include essays
    by Kamana Beamer and Kaeo Duarte, Henri
    Samuel M
    ānaiakalani Kamakau, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Katrina-Ann R.
    Kapā‘anaokalāokeola Nākoa Oliveira, Trevor Paglen, Karen Kosasa, Eric Estuar
    Reyes, Laura Lyons, Cristina Bacchilega, J. B. Harley, Kihei de Silva,
    ku‘ualoha ho‘omanawanui, Haunani-Kay Trask, Jeff Chang, Jose Rabasa, Noenoe
    Silva, D. R. K. Herman, Trevor Paglen, Vivien Lee, Charlie Reppun, Noelani
    Goodyear-Ka‘ōpua and others.



  • 5-page project proposal with an
    annotated bibliography that outlines the objectives of the seminar paper
  • 20-page seminar paper (50%)
  • one two-page write-up for a
    presentation to the class (15%)
  • weekly e-mail letters to the class
    on the assigned readings (15%)