American Studies ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-14-2019


This dissertation examines Hawaiian sovereignty in history, law, and activism. The project tracks Indigenous claims, negotiations, and articulations of sovereignty in Hawai‘i. Using a critically Indigenous approach to Hawaiian studies, I advance two main theses. First, Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) are discussed as a community divided on Hawaiian sovereignty. However, I contend that Kānaka Maoli exercise a diversity of strategies and tactics for Hawaiian sovereignty. I show how Kānaka Maoli practice multiple modalities of sovereignty that cumulatively produce the Kanaka ‘Ōiwi (Indigenous Hawaiian) politics of ea (life and sovereignty). Second, the historical development of settler colonial capitalism operationalized the US settler-state in Hawai‘i and fuels its management of Kānaka Maoli in contemporary struggles with federal recognition, nation-building, and astronomy industry development. Yet, Kanaka ‘Ōiwi artists and activists engage in geontologies of aloha ‘āina—a geographic way of being in the ‘āina (land and that which feeds)—that seek to overturn settler colonial capitalism and its champion the US settler-state. I argue that these practices issue gifts that disidentify with dominant ideologies of sovereignty as a way of reimagining ea for a decolonized then and deoccupied there. Therefore, my project explains the nefarious ways that the settler-state attempts to cohere territorial control to juridical authority and how Kānaka Maoli antagonize and disrupt the precariousness of settler sovereignty in Hawai‘i. Intervening into Indigenous Studies, Hawaiian Studies, and critical theories, the study offers new insights on the complex relationship between settler colonial capitalism and Hawaiian sovereignty.




Settler colonialism, capitalism, sovereignty, Hawaiʻi, Hawaiian Studies, Indigenous Studies

Document Type


Degree Name

American Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

American Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

Jennifer Nez Denetdale

Second Committee Member

Amy L. Brandzel

Third Committee Member

Noelani Goodyear-Kaʻōpua

Fourth Committee Member

Jodi Byrd