Accepted Paper:

Island hopping: labour policy and labourer decisions in the late kingdom of Hawai'i  


Nicholas Miller (University of Lisbon)

Paper short abstract:

This paper investigates labour migration policy making migrants decision-making in late c19th Hawai‘i. Of focus is the impact of multiple displacements on understandings of interregional cultural identities, non-Western governance and contemporary global networks.

Paper long abstract:

Combining methods of the global history of political thought and practice with an anthropologically informed inquiry of historical global lives, this paper will investigate dual dynamics of labour migration policy making and individual migrants' decision-making processes in the context of the late nineteenth-century Kingdom of Hawai'i. The Kingdom of Hawai'i presents a compelling case study as it witnessed significant flows of Western labour into a formally sovereign extra-European polity. During the final three decades of the Kingdom's existence (prior to a US businessmen led coup in 1893), an aggressive campaign to encourage mass immigration was launched that led to flows of tens of thousands of Japanese, Portuguese (mainly Madeiran) and Northern European plantation labourers to the Hawaiian Islands. Drawing upon discourses of repopulation, racial improvement and climatic suitability, leading government officials - both indigenous and Western - hoped that mass immigration would secure the Kingdom's prosperity and replenish a nation that had been decimated by the arrival of foreign diseases. Yet, these attempts were compromised by the decisions of Portuguese migrants in particular to continue on to other sites - principally California - upon the conclusion of their contracts. This paper will sketch out policy makers' conceptual politics and labourers' negotiations of Hawaiian planation labour agreements to achieve their own ends. Of particular interest will be the impact made by multiple displacements on policy makers' and labourers' understanding of interregional cultural identities, non-Western governance and contemporary global networks.

Panel RM-CPV04
Moving and moving again: embodied identifications along multiple trajectories