Sidelines and Sessions

2009/07/13

Food, papers, and Mormons.

Filed under: Uncategorized — spsukaton @ 9:15 am

Yeah, I totally missed Friday’s HF blog, but none of you were paying attention anyway.  I was at the Polynesian Cultural Center in La’ie. It was kind of disconcerting being back in a Mormon town again, butI appreciated the slightly different pace from Honolulu. (Brigham Young University, Hawaii is located there, and PCC serves as a major work-study provider for the students. There’s an optional La’ie Temple visitor’s tour.)

However, aloha spirit + LDS hospitality = OMFG ridiculous. Best food coma moment of my life. I think I slept for 18 hours the next day.

I had an assignment at PCC, though. I’m in two classes – one on immigration and another fieldwork course. Professor Labrador/D-Rod told all of us to look carefully at how Polynesian cultures were being represented by the PCC, by its activities, and how those representations affected and were affected by visitors.

A lot of our classwork so far has been aimed at perceptions of Hawai’i (and by extension, perceptions of the American Pacific.)  Americans see Hawai’i as a multiethnic paradise, a floating military base, a place where the American Dream is working its magic among a majority non-white population, and an exotic getaway. Hawai’i sells itself on all these levels – no other state is so dependent on tourism – while downplaying other parts of its life.

Background: The place is a living museum showcasing the various cultures of Polynesia – Aotearoa/New Zealand, Tahiti/French Polynesia, the Marquesas, Rapa Nui/Easter Island, Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji. Each “village” has shows and activities throughout the day, usually run by guides from each culture, many of whom are BYUH students or recent alumni.

The place is (of course) a touristy place, in comparison to the kama’aina (literally “child of the land;” used as a synonym for “local”) exposure trips we had been on earlier – the ostentation jarred with the underdevelopment of Hawaiian homestead lands in Wai’anae and the Leeward side.

The food was the best part, but it brought up an interesting question.

How is food used to reaffirm the overarching narratives of Hawaii’s identities as multiethnic, sybaritic, fetishized paradise?
Damn, I’m starving.

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