Indigenous Women and Photography in the Kingdom of Hawaii: Tradition and Modernity through Self-representation and Patronage


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


History of Art


This dissertation examines how Royal Hawaiian women engaged with photography, making use of that media as an innovative tool for self-expression, transforming and maintaining Hawaiian cultural traditions in the face of United States’ colonialism. Over the course of the 19th century, U.S. settler colonial interest in controlling Hawaiian land and resources grew exponentially. A multi-valent approach to photography became a key component in the sociocultural safeguarding that royal Hawaiian women undertook to maintain Kanaka Maoli sovereignty and lifeways. This analysis attends to the linguistic, material, and political dimensions of royal Hawaiian women’s engagement with this media and not only considers the creation and deployment of these images in the past, but also attends to the ways in which these photographs are affective and effective touchstones for Kanaka Maoli in present.