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American Aloha

Cultural Tourism and the Negotiation of Tradition

Heather A.Diamond

Publication Year: 2008

At the 1989 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, throngs of visitors gathered on the National Mall to celebrate Hawai‘i’s multicultural heritage through its traditional arts. The "edu-tainment" spectacle revealed a richly complex Hawai‘i 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 Hawai‘i. In both Washington, D.C., and Honolulu, the program instigated a new paradigm for cultural representation. Based on archival research and extensive interviews with festival organizers and participants, this innovative cross-disciplinary study uncovers the behind-the-scenes negotiations and processes that inform the national spectacle of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Intersecting the fields of museum studies, folklore studies, Hawaiian studies, performance studies, cultural studies, and American studies, American Aloha supplies a nuanced analysis of how the carefully crafted staging of Hawai‘i’s cultural diversity was used to serve a national narrative of utopian multiculturalism—one that collapsed social inequities and tensions, masked colonial history, and subordinated indigenous politics—while empowering Hawai‘i’s traditional artists and providing a model for cultural tourism that has had long-lasting effects. Heather Diamond deftly positions the 1989 program within a history of institutional intervention in the traditional arts of Hawai‘i’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, she 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.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v

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pp. vii-x

My research on the 1989 Hawai'i program at the Smithsonian began, as do many endeavors in Hawai'i, with "talk story." At the time, I was a recent transplant to the islands, and I was working as a volunteer archivist in the Folk Arts division of the Hawai'i State Foundation for Culture and the Arts (HSFCA). ...

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Note on Names

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pp. xi

Some confusion over names is unavoidable in this account. At the time of the Hawai'i program the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (CFCH) was called the Office of Folklife Programs (OFP). That title later became the Center for Folklife and Cultural Studies. In 1989 the Festival was known ...

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pp. xiii-xvi

This project was made possible through the help of people and institutions that offered support for which I am deeply indebted. My research was supported by fellowships from the East-West Center and the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and by grants from the East-West Center Association, ...


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pp. xv

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pp. 1-11

During the last week of June and first week of July 1989, a visitor to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., could have been transported to some intriguing destinations, including the Caribbean, the Great Plains, the Mississippi Delta, and the American Pacific. That year, the thirteenth annual Festival ...

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Chapter 1 Cultural Intervention in America's Eden

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pp. 12-60

The 1989 Festival of American Folklife (FAF) in Washington, D.C., began, as had its predecessors, with an opening ceremony attended by dignitaries, officials, and par ticipants. Governor John Waihee, Hawai'i's first and only Native Hawaiian governor, set the tone for the Hawai'i program in his opening ...

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Chapter 2 Finding and Defining Traditional Hawai'i

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pp. 61-97

The 1989 Hawai'i program in Washington, D.C., lasted for only ten days, but it was over a year and a half in the making. Fundamental to the festival-making process was the six-month-long "fieldwork phase" - the research-based process determining which tradition bearers and what traditions would ...

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Chapter 3 Interpreting an Authentic "Sense of Place"

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pp. 98-133

Each year just prior to the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival (SFF), the National Mall is a fenced-in flurry of activity as construction crews barrel about in trucks and carts, scurrying to get tents hoisted, stages and backdrops built, signs mounted. Electrical generators must be set up to run stage ...

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Chapter 4 Performing "The Other Side of the Island"

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pp. 134-174

Prior to the opening of the 1989 Festival, the Hawai'i program production crew had worked hard to transform the physical site into a sensory experience that evoked the islands, and the results must have been effective. One longtime Festival volunteer reminiscing fourteen years later recalled ...

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Chapter 5 Beyond the Festival Afterglow

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pp. 175-212

In the summer of 2003 I traveled to Waimea, Kaua'i, to meet some of the surviving members of the Waimea Hawaiian Church Choir who had performed himeni choral music at the Festival. When I arrived at the house of Miriam Kaleipua Pahulehua, a crowd of relatives was busily tending ...

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pp. 213-218

In 2002, on my first visit to the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, I asked Diana Parker if she thought the Folklife Festival was subversive. Her immediate reply was, "God, I hope so!" For many reasons, I think she is right. After all, in 1989 one could step out of the Museum of Natural History ...


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pp. 219-238

Glossary of Foreign Words

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pp. 239-240


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pp. 241-250


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pp. 251-261

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About the Author

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Heather A. Diamond received her Ph.D. in American studies from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, where she is currently a lecturer in the departments of English and American studies. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780824861414
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824831714

Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
  • Folklore -- Hawaii.
  • Hawaii -- Social life and customs.
  • Folk festivals -- United States -- Public opinion.
  • Public opinion -- United States.
  • Festival of American Folklife -- (13th : -- 1989 : -- Washington, D.C.).
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