This book explores the poetics and politics of festival making as seen through an ethnographic history of the 1989 Hawaiʻi program at the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival (SFF), the largest national tourist event in the United States. The SFF is an idealistic, innovative, populist-based experiment in cultural democracy that celebrates cultural diversity and advocates cultural preservation through fieldwork-based research that identifies culture bearers and offers public presentations and interpretations of their cultural contributions. The SFF blurs the boundaries of both museum and tourism presentations that rely on clear demarcations between viewers and viewed. This book examines how the themes of public sector folklore culture brokering, cultural tourism, ideas about multiculturalism, the role of tradition in national image making, and the impact of cultural intervention on local communities converge in the SFF. It also raises important questions about the stakes surrounding the politics of tradition and multiculturalism while highlighting the importance of looking critically at the ways peoples and places are represented through cultural agencies.
Keywords: festival making, Hawaiʻi program, Smithsonian Folklife Festival, cultural democracy, cultural diversity, cultural preservation, cultural tourism, multiculturalism, tradition, cultural intervention