Growing resistance : taro as the symbol of postcolonial Hawaiian identity. (2020)
AuthorsPipes, Charlesshow all
Taro is a root vegetable that has held important dietary, spiritual, and social roles with Native Hawaiian culture for centuries. The cultivation and management of the taro plant was a significant foundation of ancient Hawaiian society. Following the 19th century Western colonization of Hawaii, and the ensuing degradation of the indigenous culture, taro cultivation went into a steep decline as a result of land alienation, commercialization, and resources being designated for alternative, non- native crops. In the years following annexation by the United States, there was a growing Hawaiian identity and sovereignty movement. This thesis examines how taro became a potent symbol of that movement and Indigenous Hawaiian resistance to Western hegemony. The thesis will examine taro’s role as a symbol of resistance by analyzing the plant’s traditional uses and cultivation methods, as well as the manner in which Hawaiian taro was displaced by colonial influence. This resistance, modeled after the Civil Rights Movement and American Indian Movement in the United States, used environmental, spiritual, and cosmological themes to illustrate the Hawaiian movement’s objectives. Taro cultivation, encapsulating nearly every aspect of traditional Hawaiian society and environment, became a subtle form of nonviolent protest. To examine taro farming from this perspective, the plant’s socioeconomic, spiritual, and biological aspects will be explored. By examining taro cultivation through this lens, this thesis intends to further explore the cultural and political narratives of resistance within marginalized indigenous groups such as the Native Hawaiians.