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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Dramatic Historicizing of Hawai'i: The Juxtaposition of Indigenous Culture, Colonization/Americanization, and 21st-Century Issues in the Island Plays and Writings of Victoria Nālani Kneubuhl
by Parsons, Patti May, M.A., East Carolina University, 2014, 116; 1583713
Abstract (Summary)

Victoria Nālani Kneubuhl, a prolific playwright and novelist, has become quite well-known for her works in critical dramatization of Hawai'i's colonial past, most often representing the Hawaiian Islands' cultural-socio-political changes through the thoughts and actions of doubly-marginalized female-indigenous Hawaiian characters. Four selected historiographical plays, clearly illustrating the crucial role of women in the formation of Hawai'i's past, present the juxtaposition of the indigenous culture with the onset and continuation of the effects of Americanization on the Hawaiian Islands--most notably excessive tourism and military use affecting the culture and the land. Kneubuhl's texts, as well as the performance of her plays and works of living history, are both educational and provoke contemplation. Three of the four plays under consideration in this research are gathered in the anthology, Hawai'i Nei: Island Plays. These include The Conversion of Ka`ahumanu (set in the 1820's), Emmalehua (set in 1951), and Ola Nā Iwi (1994). The fourth, a living history play, January 1893, was produced and performed in January of 1993 on historic sites in Honolulu as part of the 100th year commemoration of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.

An informed analysis of these discourses--political, social, moral, religious and spiritual--adds a strong voice to the current conversation concerning Hawai'i's right to exercise self-determination. Kneubuhl's four selected plays illustrate Hawai'i's resistance to colonization beginning with the arrival of the American Protestant missionaries in 1820, and portray highlights of the outcomes of the cultural clash between Native Hawaiians and the intruding foreigners who desire to claim the land and govern it.

The idea of voice runs as a strong thread through these four major plays--specifically the feminine voice as illustrated by the central female figure(s) in each. Kneubuhl's use of dramatic performance constitutes an effective strategy in producing a wider range of enlightened understanding regarding Hawai'i's history, portraying Hawai'i's ruling class (ali`i) as strong, wise, insightful leaders. By engaging viewers of her plays (and readers of her published works) in active emotional and intellectual participation, Kneubuhl creates an opportunity to rethink or reform opinions regarding Hawai'i's past. Her plays continue to promote a more open-minded discourse that acts to preserve and renew Hawai'i's unique indigenous culture, and to consider or reconsider Hawai'i's social-political future and place in the world. Kneubuhl's works, a type of protest literature, tend to produce a sense of indignation concerning the greed, injustice, and illegality of many acts of the past that have had an adverse impact on the Islands and the Native Hawaiian people. Kneubuhl's dramatic works support sovereignty through education, helping to increase understanding of Hawai'i's true history. The aim is to create more informed discussion and debates on the topic of sovereignty.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bardill, Jessica, Taylor, Richard C.
Commitee: Kitta, Andrea
School: East Carolina University
Department: English
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: MAI 54/03M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Theater, Pacific Rim Studies, Theater History, Gender studies
Keywords: Drama, Hawaii, Kneubuhl, Victoria Nalani, Sovereignty
Publication Number: 1583713
ISBN: 978-1-321-55399-4
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