- Staking Claim: Settler Colonialism and Racialization in Hawai'i by Judy Rohrer
It is perhaps unusual for an author to appear so visibly in an academic text. However, in Judy Rohrer's Staking Claim, there she is, body slackened and seasick in the waters off O'ahu's western shoreline, contemplating Disney's Aulani Resort in all of its glossy commercialization of Hawaiian culture. In this way, she offers herself up to readers both literally and metaphorically to grapple with the complexity of Hawai'i's settler colonial history and present and in doing so walks a tightrope: writing about whiteness in Hawai'i, as a self-identified haole from Hawai'i, with anecdotal evidence recalled from living in Hawai'i, while working hard to avoid centering haole positionality in an assessment of the meaning of race. This is no small task, and Rohrer respectfully engages with the work of her Kanaka Maoli peers—J Kēhaulani Kauanui, Noenoe Silva, and Hokulani Aikau, among others—in order to show how non-natives "stake claim" or articulate a sense of belonging in Hawai'i.
Staking Claim is a sharp evolution of Rohrer's previous works on whiteness, or haole, in Hawai'i going back to her 2005 University of Hawai'i dissertation, "Haole Matters: An Interrogation of Whiteness in Hawai'i," and 2010 book Haoles in Hawai'i. To such past efforts Rohrer adds theoretical weight with the key concept of racialization, a social process by which values are attached to particular communities in order to substantiate ideas of racial difference. Racialization is a useful name to give the phenomenon of native elimination within the Hawaiian context and helps, in Rohrer's words, to reveal how "the dual settler colonial processes of racializing native Hawaiians (erasing their indigeneity) and indigenizing non-Hawaiians enable the staking of non-Hawaiian claims to Hawai'i" (7). This process is, she points out, ancillary to the inherent categorical messiness of how race is constructed. Hawai'i's multiculturalism, sometimes referred to as the "melting pot," often obscures Kanaka Maoli claims to indigeneity at the same time that it articulates the overlapping native/settler/arrivant communities that call it home. An interdisciplinary application of literatures from Hawaiian and Native Pacific cultural studies, indigenous studies, whiteness studies, and Chicano/a studies—through which Rohrer emplaces her own genealogic identity—supports a very strong argument that, in order for race and indigeneity to be useful social analytics, one must move toward a necessary acknowledgment of how racial categories are porous, discursive, and continually made and remade over time.
The book's main chapters focus first on theory and then on analysis, which lends to the book's utility. The first two chapters, "Going to the Ocean" and "Weaving Analytics and Disrupting Dyads," treat foundational concepts—first racialization and then settler colonialism—with patience and clarity so that they can underpin [End Page 380] the three chapters that follow. The resulting text is almost a sophisticated primer. For example, the key elements of Patrick Wolfe's seminal formulation of settler colonialism are enumerated and expanded (ie, "1. Structure, Not an Event" ) by drawing on important works about Hawai'i and its history. The author's strategy of breaking down complex theory into component parts and then providing concrete applications for each is synthetic, and with good reason: readers will recognize Rohrer's intention to highlight the intellectual contributions of Native Pacific (including Kanaka Maoli) scholars first and foremost so as not to reproduce settler colonial power within the text itself, as well as to map out more generally the existing conversations within indigenous studies that she wishes to build on, drawing heavily on Native American scholars like Audra Simpson, Scott Morgensen, and Jodi Byrd. Even so, the author would have done well to provide a more muscular engagement with the literature on Asian settler colonialism, which has its own distinct contours. This would...