Abstract

"Hawaiians on Tour: Hula Circuits Through the American Empire" discusses how Hawaiian hula performances helped to broker the expansionist needs of the U.S. as Hawai'i was transformed from a minor tropical colony to an American tourist and military stronghold. Hula dancers from Hawai'i began performing across the U.S. continent in middlebrow American nightclubs in the 1930s and 1940s. Heralded in the Hawai'i media as "hula queens" and "cinderellas," Hawaiian women who joined hula circuits served as ambassadors of aloha for the territory. Their commercial performances produced what I call an Ôimagined intimacy' between Hawai'i and the United States, a fantasy of reciprocal attachment that enabled Americans to possess their island colony physically and figuratively. American audiences indulged in a feminized and eroticized version of Hawai'i on stage: the islands as a different but welcoming place, willing to submit to American tourist and military advances. While elevating Native Hawaiians as the principal agents of Hawaiian culture, live hula performances simultaneously helped to erase the presence of large numbers of Asians who lived in Hawai'i. This article also foregrounds the experiences of entertainers who developed Hawaiian communities and performance networks across metropolitan areas. Hawaiian women were sophisticated travelers and settlers who took advantage of broader educational and employment opportunities available on the U.S. continent. During a time when many women found work in plantation and service industries, these hula circuits led them to lives and careers inside and outside of entertainment.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6490
Print ISSN
0003-0678
Pages
pp. 111-149
Launched on MUSE
2004-03-18
Open Access
No
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