- Beyond Hawai'i: Native Labor in the Pacific World by Gregory Rosenthal
The previous decade has seen the rapid growth of a rich historiography of the Pacific World, including works like David Igler's The Great Ocean which traced the ships and the commodities that drew that world together in the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. More recently, David Chang's The World and All the Things Upon It has [End Page 815] highlighted Indigenous people's role in creating this world and the cultural knowledge that came from their engagement with it. Gregory Rosenthal's Beyond Hawai'i is an excellent addition to those works, and it enhances our understanding of both the larger world that Igler revealed and the centrality of Indigenous people and labor to that world examined by Chang. The greatest strength of Beyond Hawai'i is this deft juxtaposition of individual experiences of Hawaiian laborers and the global context of their migrations and labor. Each chapter focuses on an individual worker in a particular industry, but Rosenthal's narrative expands to examine the species and environments that shaped these commodity chains and the political and social changes in Hawai'i that pushed Hawaiians into mobility while also remaining cognizant of how each shifted over time.
Each chapter examines one of the commodities that drew many Hawaiians, mostly men, into the burgeoning Pacific World while adding nuance to this narrative of proletarianization. The first chapter on sandalwood examines how Hawaiian political structures, like the oft-discussed relationship between ali'i or chiefs and maka'āinana or peasants, and land reforms shaped the trade alongside Chinese demand, which was driven by China's own complex relationship with the commodity. The next two chapters cover the vast mobility that emerged as thousands of Hawaiians boarded whaling ships to follow the animals across the Pacific and into the Arctic while also discussing the markets for products from whale bodies and how the animals' own movements and behaviors shaped the trade. Chapter 4 looks at Hawaiians on guano islands alongside the seabirds that generated the commodity they mined. His examination of California centers on the Gold Rush but examines the longer history of the Hawaiian presence there, including the long period when gold mining shifted to wage work and the broader state economy shifted to agriculture. Finally, sugar production in Hawai'i introduced a new wrinkle of labor mobility as Chinese workers migrated to the island to replace Hawaiian labor deemed scarce, idle, and unhealthy. Rosenthal thus notes how broader trends in colonizing power and the movement of Pacific peoples took Hawaiians from an essential labor force throughout the Pacific World and beyond to a marginalized and dispossessed one in their own land.
Rosenthal frames each chapter around an individual Hawaiian in each trade, and these examples help to humanize his narratives and arguments. They also provide vivid metaphors that Rosenthal uses to structure the chapters. For instance, a "dance of death" performed by the sailor Make after he was brutally beaten by the captain of his whaling vessel leads Rosenthal to divide chapter 2 into "dances." These [End Page 816] stylistic conceits add some literary flavor and liveliness to his arguments. Rosenthal pays close attention to how those who employed Hawaiians constructed visions of Hawaiian bodies that led to assumptions, and labor relationships, shaped by ideas about health, climate, and gender. He also invokes Thomas Andrews' idea of a workscape to examine how these labors interacted with unfamiliar worlds like whale ships or guano islands in which they labored.
Hawaiian workers who ventured into the wider Pacific World were overwhelmingly male. Rosenthal does include gender analysis of these workers, but he also hints at a few female workers, often in the sex trade. It is clear that Rosenthal's discussion of these women is constrained by numbers and sources, but any expansion of this material would have been welcome.
Rosenthal employs meticulous research, including careful analysis of European...