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Finding and Defining Traditional Hawai‘i

Finding and Defining Traditional Hawai‘i

(p.61) Chapter 2 Finding and Defining Traditional Hawai‘i
American Aloha
Heather A. Diamond
University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines how ethnicity and multiculturalism are constructed through definitions of tradition by focusing on the “fieldwork phase” of the festival-making process that sought to determine which tradition bearers and what traditions would be selected to represent Hawaiʻi as a multicultural paradigm in the national arena of the Smithsonian's Festival of American Folklife. The chapter highlights some of the disjunctions between local and national definitions and uses of multiculturalism, showing in particular how the question of “who can speak” for a community by way of a cultural practice was inflected by predetermined notions of authenticity and traditionality. It also considers the Hawaiʻi State Foundation for Culture and the Arts's classification of ethnic groups into Polynesian, Asian, and Other categories. While the final selection of nine ethnic groups were intended to challenge simplistic notions of Hawaiʻi, the chapter argues that they unwittingly reinforced some of the very tropes they sought to undercut.

Keywords:   ethnicity, multiculturalism, tradition, fieldwork, tradition bearers, Hawaiʻi, Festival of American Folklife, Hawaiʻi State Foundation for Culture and the Arts, ethnic groups, folklife

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