restricted access The Army Learns to Luau: Imperial Hospitality and Military Photography in Hawai‘i
Abstract

Circulating in the contemporary global cultural marketplace, the tourist luau is an iconic form of commodified hospitality and leisure, readily available in embodied and mediated forms. This article traces the emergence of the luau as a material practice and discursive formation during the “mili-touristic” economy of World War II Hawai‘i in films shot by US military units. US combat photography units staged ethnographic performances of hula and luaus, transforming the luau from a privileged experience for a select few to a mass mediated event. These filmic performances produced scripts of imperial hospitality: imagined and enacted scripts in which Islanders and soldiers play roles as host and guest, respectively. Military luaus rendered uneven colonial relationships as mutual and consensual encounters between white soldiers and Native women. Through the exercise of biopower, military cameras did not merely discipline Hawaiian populations, but also integrated colonial subjects and regulated Hawaiian sexuality. These gendered scripts continue to secure Hawai‘i as a rest and relaxation capital for US military personnel.


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