Polyface in Paradise: Exploring the Politics of Race, Gender, and Place

Date
2018
Authors
Alexeyeff, Kalissa
Kihara, Yuki
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University of Hawai‘i Press
Center for Pacific Islands Studies
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Abstract
Yuki Kihara’s 2016 work Der Papālagi (The White Man) provides a critical reappropriation of an early twentieth-century account of a Samoan chief and his views on “white people” and the artifice of European “civilization.” This work was popular as an invocation of island paradise that appealed to German sensibilities of the time. It has, however, been revealed as a literary masquerade written by Erich Scheurmann, who resided briefly in Sāmoa in the early twentieth century. This tale has been further interpreted in a photographic project by artist Yuki Kihara who uses it to reexplore contemporary evocations of paradise and to dis- rupt hierarchical relations through a series of racial crossings and inversions of looking at relations that work to provincialize boundaries of race and question understandings of cultural appropriation. In both Scheurmann’s and Kihara’s works, as well as in the collaborative project of writing this essay, the dynamics of possessing paradise via colonial imaginaries, neocolonial leisure industries, and the practice of ethnography are explored to highlight the complexities of exploitation, cultural ownership, and desire.
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race, neocolonialism, Sāmoa, cultural appropriation, paradise, cross- dressing performances
Citation
Alexeyeff, K, and Kihara, Y. 2018. Polyface in Paradise: Exploring the Politics of Race, Gender, and Place. The Contemporary Pacific 30 (2): 329–353.
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25 pages
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