Honors Projects for American Studies

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    Learning & Teaching Historical Complexity in Hawai‘i: The King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center, Two Teachers, and Two Seminars on Native Hawaiian Legal Challenges
    (University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2015-05) Mandado, Ryan ; Kosasa, Karen Keiko ; American Studies
    Many teachers do not have the educational tools to address complex historical topics in the classroom. In Hawai‘i, Native Hawaiian Self-Determination and American democracy are contradictory issues for some teachers. These teachers feel uncomfortable if they uphold American ideals of justice and equality while teaching students about Native Hawaiian legal challenges. Classroom discussions may become too controversial and emotional for them. How can we assist educators to guide young people to think critically about American historical, political, social, and cultural issues? Museums and similar institutions are continually looking for ways to engage with their local communities. Today, teachers often look to museums for resources that their classroom textbooks may not offer. The King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center (JHC) is an example of one of these places in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. This project examines two seminars held at JHC: The Constitution and Native Hawaiian Self-Determination (2009) and Challenges of American Citizenship for Native Peoples (2011). It is important to understand not only what the teachers learned, but how they learned the information in these seminars. To accomplish this I interviewed teachers and JHC staff, and attended a JHC seminar. Through my research I discovered how museums and educators work together to teach students about complex, contradictory, and potentially controversial historical events and issues. I also began to understand the destructive effects of American colonialism on Native and non-Native teachers and students in the classroom.
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    LeBron James, Self Determination, and the Slavery of the African American Athlete
    (University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2015-05) Ballard, Troy ; Tripp, Jeffery ; American Studies
    A belief of white superiority has been a constant dominating undertone in American history, and because of this, there has been irrefutable prejudice and discrimination towards those of African American descent. Demonstrations of white supremacy are constantly visible within popular culture, most being tucked into the subscript of a popular sitcom, buried in the lyrics of the newest pop single or thinly veiled in a clothing advertisement, and professional sports are no exception. I suggest in this project that black athletes are exploited by a predominately white consumer base that values a win-loss column and statistics more than understanding the long-term and historical precedent of professional sports as an institution that forcefully rejects self-determination, promotes negative historical stereotypes and ideologies, and ultimately, serves as a contemporary form of slavery. To substantiate this claim, I will examine several prominent examples of the public sphere broadly rejecting LeBron James’ desire to self-determine. This project will analyze public letters written by a team owner, fan and public responses on Twitter and professional sports publications following comments made by James about his salary and following “Decision.” By examining the career of James, arguably the most popular black athlete in the world, he is the ideal metaphor for all other African American athletes.
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    Where’s the Aloha? A Genealogy of Local Culture
    (University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2014-09-26) Wheeler, Jennifer ; Njoroge, Njoroge ; American Studies
    Due to its fluid nature and ability to evolve, local culture is difficult to define. Local identity is often defined by what it is not, what it is in opposition to, or who cannot participate in it. The scholarly discourse which has sought to engage local culture develops an origin story which begins on the plantations, evolves through a shared history of labor oppression, and unifies the people as they make lives for themselves working the sugar or pineapple fields. Almost as soon as it begins, local history ends with racial harmony, and is then absorbed back into the broader narrative of Hawaii’s history. However, this narrative is reductive and does not explain how local identity continues to be racialized. The history of local identity began on the plantations, was shaped by white supremacist ideology, and evolved during historical moments of extreme racial tension. While local history parallels the history of Hawaii, it deserves to be analyzed and chronicled in order to better understand its current incarnation. This thesis seeks to conduct a meaningful analysis of racialized cultural identity and develop a historical narrative of its evolution. In order to achieve this aim, primary source materials such as newspapers, court documents, cartoons, caricatures, and literature will be utilized in conjunction with secondary scholarly sources to construct a narrative. Additionally, oral histories and interviews will be employed to gain a fuller understanding of what local identity is and its connection to historical events.
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    Colonization, The English Language, and Alaska Natives: How English has Affected Alaska Native Culture
    (University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2014-01-15) Pruett, Emily ; American Studies
    Marie Smith Jones died January 21st, 2008 in Anchorage Alaska. Jones was the last person in the world to speak the Alaska Native language, Eyak, and with her death the Eyak language has become extinct. There are 20 Alaska Native languages in Alaska today, and all of them are endangered. Michael E. Krauss, the premier linguist who, in 1991 at the Linguistic Society of America, drew attention to the fate of all American Indigenous languages asserts, “At the rate things are going, unless there’s some miracle or vast change takes place that we can’t foresee ... 95 percent of our languages will be gone by the end of the next century, or maybe just 90 percent if we’re lucky.” In the course of my research I will explore the effect that the English language has had on Alaska Native languages, and by extension the Alaska Native way of life. Through researching digital archives, interviewing those active in Alaska Native language revitalization, and reading Alaska Native writers and activists, as well as other writers from colonized nations around the world I argue that as a colonial tool English has done nearly irreparable damage to Alaska Native languages and cultural heritage by psychologically and systematically marginalizing indigenous language and culture. I will also examine how Alaska Natives are working to protect, preserve, and pass down their languages as part of their cultural heritage.
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    “Super-Powers and the Super Powers”: Representation of Nuclear Military Technology through Comic Books
    (University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2014-01-15) Kubojiri, Meagan ; American Studies
    During World War II, the United States demonstrated its military might to the rest of the world when it dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As writer Frank Conroy described, the generation of the new atomic age “felt exhilaration at the indisputable proof that America was the strongest power on earth” (quoted in Henriksen 39). At the time of the attacks, the innovative nuclear technology was celebrated; Americans perceived the atomic bomb as an efficient military weapon that spared countless lives when the enemy surrendered and the Allies emerged from war as victorious. However, shortly after, when the vast destruction of the bomb was revealed, questions of the ethicality regarding the use of nonconventional weapons arose. As the United States entered the Cold War against the Soviet Union, the celebration of World War II victories started to fade and was replaced by the anxieties of a possible nuclear apocalypse.