American AlohaCultural Tourism and the Negotiation of Tradition

American AlohaCultural Tourism and the Negotiation of Tradition

Heather A. Diamond

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780824831714

Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press


At the 1989 Smithsonian Folklife Festival (SFF), throngs of visitors gathered on the National Mall to celebrate Hawaiʻi's multicultural heritage through its traditional arts. The “edu-tainment” spectacle revealed a richly complex Hawaiʻi that few tourists ever see and one never before or since replicated in a national space. The program was restaged a year later in Honolulu for a local audience and subsequently inspired several spin-offs in Hawaiʻi. In both Washington, D.C., and Honolulu, the program instigated a new paradigm for cultural representation. This book uncovers the behind-the-scenes negotiations and processes that inform the national spectacle of the SFF. The book supplies an analysis of how the carefully crafted staging of Hawaiʻi's cultural diversity was used to serve a national narrative of utopian multiculturalism while empowering Hawaiʻi's traditional artists and providing a model for cultural tourism that has had long-lasting effects. The book positions the 1989 Hawaiʻi program within a history of institutional intervention in the traditional arts of the island's ethnic groups as well as in relation to local cultural revivals and the tourist industry. By tracing the planning, fieldwork, site design, performance, and aftermath stages of the program, the book examines the uneven processes through which local culture is transformed into national culture and raises questions about the stakes involved in cultural tourism for both culture bearers and culture brokers.