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Sweet Leilani Syndrome: The Statehood Movement, Tourism, and Music in 1930s Hawai'i

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Title:Sweet Leilani Syndrome: The Statehood Movement, Tourism, and Music in 1930s Hawai'i
Authors:Otto, Jesse Jacob
Contributors:Chapman, William R. (advisor)
American Studies (department)
Keywords:American studies
Date Issued:2021
Publisher:University of Hawai'i at Manoa
Abstract:In 1930s Hawai‘i, the statehood movement allied with the tourism industry to use the music industry to market their causes on a global scale using a fantasy that presented the islands as a feminized and exoticized, yet white-dominated space. White elites had used this fantasy, built on old racist ideas from the US continent, for decades before the 1930s while actively working in many ways to make Hawai‘i into a white space in both reality and the colonial imaginary. A key component of this process was the work of the tourism industry in collaboration with the US continental music industry to replace an island industry and culture innovated largely by Kānaka Maoli with haole musicians and popular styles of music from the US continent. Harry Owens, a haole from the US continent, became the most prominent musician in the process initially as musical director on the internationally popular government funded radio show Hawaii Calls and shortly after through his music being featured in hit motion pictures. Owens’ autobiography, music, TV show, and the movies with which he was associated were built on tourism’s distorted image of the islands. The formulaic nature of these commodities fueled the spread of tourism and pro-statehood messaging as it granted spokespeople like Harry Owens a sense of authenticity and authority that Americans found credible because it conformed to and confirmed their false notions of Hawai‘i and Hawaiian culture and music. Statehood and tourism advocates’ successful use of the music industry brought about profound changes for individual musicians in the islands including new opportunities along with challenges to navigate. The entertainment industry’s use of this fantasy to market Hawai‘i proved so profitable that this fantasy remains the foundation of entertainment industry commodities depicting the islands into the twenty-first century.
Pages/Duration:255 pages
Rights:All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections: Ph.D. - American Studies

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