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An ethnographic study of the construction of Hawaiian Christianity in the past and the present

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Item Summary

Title: An ethnographic study of the construction of Hawaiian Christianity in the past and the present
Authors: Inoue, Akihiro
Advisor: Dewey, Alice G
Keywords: Hawaiian
Cultural anthropology
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Issue Date: May 2003
Publisher: University of Hawaii at Manoa
Citation: Inoue, Akihiro (2003) An ethnographic study of the construction of Hawaiian Christianity in the past and the present. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Hawai'i, United States -- Hawaii.
Abstract: The original question this study posed was, "How do contemporary Christian Hawaiians identify themselves between being Hawaiian and being Christian?" This hypothetical question is fundamentally oriented in the present. In order to find better answers to the question, however, a broader historical framework is indispensable. Therefore, the dissertation is composed of two focuses: the past and the present of Hawaiian Christianity--mainly in the Congregationalist tradition. They are separated not only by time and target of investigation but also in the analytical methods used for approaching targets. However, I attempt to present them in such a manner as to make interpretation of the past and the present resonate.

In the historical study of this dissertation, I investigate how Hawaiians incorporated Christianity in the latter half of the 19th century and how Hawaiian culture functioned in the process of incorporation. By locating two dissident Hawaiian Christian movements within a broader social context of the colonial condition, I aim to describe how Hawaiians were dealing with Christianity. Although their results were different, leaders of the two movements attempted to seize the initiative and establish sovereignty in the church. They wanted to establish a real church for Hawaiians.

In the study of contemporary Hawaiian Christianity, I investigate how Christian Hawaiians are constructing their identity and faith. Through examining their narratives on how they deal with Hawaiian traditions and Christianity, I show how their identity and faith are diversely constructed but loosely unified under the problem that originally brings about diversity. I also point out that Christian Hawaiians are facing difficulty in the process of establishing Hawaiian Christianity because of the post-colonial condition, in which Hawaiian-ness (a symbolic complex of Hawaiian history, culture and identity) is competitively represented and has never had a fixed unitary meaning.

By juxtaposing the past and present of Hawaiian Christianity, I argue that Hawaiian-ness can serve not only as a problem but also as a catalyst when constructing Hawaiian Christian faith in the present. As a post-colonial problem, the relation between culture and faith becomes a significant issue for Christian Hawaiians, who desire to make Christianity Hawaiian.
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Appears in Collections:Ph.D. - Anthropology
Anthropology Ph.D Dissertations

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