The social meanings of hula - Hawaiian traditions and politicized identities in Hilo
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The social meanings of hula, the Hawaiian dance and tradition, are many and diverse. While originally having the function of preserving stories, legends and myths of the past, it has faced many interpretations and ascribed meanings throughout a history of colonization, impacts of tourism and struggles for the preservation of Hawaiian indigeneity. It has been used both as a metaphor for the feminine, the strange and exotic, and as a metonym for things Hawaiian, by both Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians. In this thesis I suggest that the Hawaiian hula is considered a valued ingredient in the social processes that define Hawaiian identity. Through the Hawaiian hula tradition the dancer is incorporated into the natural, spiritual and cosmological landscape of Hawai i, and is placed within a reciprocal relationship with the land, both important aspects of ascribed and self-ascribed Hawaiian identity. While criticizing the current biological focus on Hawaiian identity, I seek to promote an alternative way, using knowledge about and participation in the hula tradition, of defining what it means to be Hawaiian in today's American Hawai i.