This essay interrogates multiple representations of lāhui to index the shifting relationships between the individual and the nation in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Hawai’i, as prescribed by both Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) epistemology and US political frameworks, to suggest how a return to indigenous conceptions of the Kanaka Maoli body may liberate notions of identity and belonging from the American imposition of blood quantum. Kanaka Maoli knowledge systems elucidate the sacredness of the human body, and I use the playwright and novelist Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl’s short story “Ho’oulu Lāhui” to argue that the racialized logics of blood quantum are, in effect, a metaphorical desecration. Ultimately, I argue that in privileging indigenous epistemologies of the body, which are dependent on its genealogical and kinship connections to community, we can open up discussions of inclusion and belonging that are based on the body but freed of US constructions of blood logic that have permeated, and at times divided, Hawaiian society.


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pp. 937-958
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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