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“Aloha Spirit” and the Cultural Politics of Sentiment as National Belonging

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Title: “Aloha Spirit” and the Cultural Politics of Sentiment as National Belonging
Authors: Ohnuma, Keiko
Keywords: aloha
politics of sentiment
LC Subject Headings: Oceania -- Periodicals.
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press
Center for Pacific Island Studies
Citation: Ohnuma, K. 2008. “Aloha Spirit” and the Cultural Politics of Sentiment as National Belonging. The Contemporary Pacific 20 (2): 365-94.
Abstract: From the “Live Aloha” bumper stickers seen throughout Hawai‘i to the state
constitution advising lawmakers to “give consideration to the Aloha Spirit,” the
panacea of aloha is trotted out to answer every source of conflict in the Islands,
from political to spiritual. The trope has been synonymous with Hawai‘i for so
long that few people are bothered by its resistance to definition, its tendency to
evoke closure where one would expect to see debate and dissent. I propose that
this is not only because aloha points toward the things closest to people’s hearts—
family, church, and nation—but also and more importantly because it succeeds in
obscuring a history of traumatic meanings, all carrying political investments that
remain couched beneath the seemingly transparent universality of such private
sentiments as love and kindness. As a metonym for the Aloha State, “aloha spirit”
serves as both social lubricant and glue, binding a cultural and political entity
whose membership is contested. Unresolved historical contests run beneath the
surface, however, driving an economy of lack that serves to keep aloha in motion.
It is in the interest of divesting the figure of its traumatic power that this genealogy
attempts to unpack some of the signifier’s hidden histories.
ISSN: 1043–898X
Appears in Collections:TCP [The Contemporary Pacific ], 2008 - Volume 20, Number 2

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