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104 5 The Politics of the Pipe Opium Regulation and Protocolonial Governance in Nineteenth-­ Century Hawai‘i JULIA KATZ During the last two decades of the Hawaiian monarchy, cultural, political, and economic struggles converged in the regulation of opium, and nearly every faction of Hawaiian society had a stake in the debate. What made opium regulation such a salient site of struggle? How did the debate come to consume the attention and resources of the nation, and what does this captivation tell us about the sociological imagination of the late nineteenth-­ century Hawaiian body politic? As with our contemporary War on Drugs, the discursive and empirical record of the regulation of opium tells us less about who was actually using and selling the drug than it does about who was already perceived to be criminal, which improper and abject subjects needed to be policed and purged. The discourse around opium reveals a lurid public imaginary, one preoccupied with the precarious fate of an island kingdom always on the precipice—­ whether of demographic failure, financial ruin, or annexation. Opium, whose sensational tragedies and alleged abuses circulated through rumor and published accounts across the imperial world, lent these fears a sordid urgency. It became, in the eyes of the state and respectable society, a crisis of criminality in the case of the Chinese, a crisis of public health for the Native Hawaiians, and a crisis of governance for a protocolonial state unable to extend its reach into those corners of society deemed most threatening—­ the interiors of Chinese and Hawaiian life.1 I argue that opium, when taken as an optic, reveals both the vexing blind spots of protocolonial governance, as well as its strategies of sovereignty, including sinophobia, paternalism, and exclusion. Each tactic was crucial to the maintenance and extension of American hegemony in the islands. The Politics of the Pipe 105 While the traffic in opium generated fortunes for some, squandered the meager holdings of many, filled jails and government coffers, and scandalized the native monarchy, it has been largely ignored by contemporary historians of Hawai‘i. However, its strength as an optic for viewing Hawaiian history is evident in its wide scope. The discourse around opium regulation deserves critical analysis because of its high-­ stakes terms, the urgency and anxiety generated by the perceived drug crisis, and the material impact it had on Hawaiian politics , economy, and society. Furthermore, historicizing opium as a site of struggle reveals the stumbling, frustrated, contingent, and improvised nature of American imperialism in the islands. It is precisely in these vexations, in the rehashing and testing and failure of schemes of colonial governance, that an alternative history of colonialism lies—­ one that reveals its insidious processes to be both endless and incomplete. Reciprocity and American Hegemony Inter-­ imperial rivalry overshadowed the political history of the nineteenth-­ century Pacific Islands. American involvement in Hawai‘i was plagued by perpetual fears that the islands were being pulled away from the North American mainland—­ specifically, toward Britain and China. It was against the former pull that the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875, the inaugural triumph of King Kalākaua’s reign, was passed. The culmination of years of previous efforts to negotiate, draft, and ratify an agreement facilitating trade between the United States and Hawai‘i, the treaty fastened the fate of the Hawaiian economy, particularly the sugar industry, to the US market. Stipulating that the Hawaiian government recognize the United States as its favored trading partner, the treaty excited popular suspicions of American annexation. Amid these fears, American ministers in the Hawaiian government had a tricky path to negotiate. While lobbying for the extension of American power into the archipelago, they dissembled their imperial intentions through assurances that a closer alliance with the United States would secure Hawaiian independence.2 A loud champion of the Reciprocity Treaty and American supremacy in the islands, Walter Murray Gibson delivered his “Address to the Hawaiian People” in 1876 with two purposes: to assuage their fears that the treaty was effectively a blueprint for colonization, and to convince them to expend their civic energies elsewhere—­ namely, in reproduction. For the minister, reproduction had more than a biological connotation. Reproduction meant assimilating to the modes of capitalist labor and behavior by which American economic activity in the islands was structured. By measuring population increase against assimilation , Gibson displaced blame for the decimation of the Hawaiian people from haole (white, foreign) colonists to the Hawaiians themselves. He contrasted the 106 Julia Katz islands...


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