The betrayal of Elia Helekūnihi: the politics of culture and colonisation by stealth in nineteenth century Hawaiʻi

Walmisley, Andrew John (2021). The betrayal of Elia Helekūnihi: the politics of culture and colonisation by stealth in nineteenth century Hawaiʻi. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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The life of Elia Helekūnihi, an Hawaiian traditionalist of the chiefly class, challenges assumptions about the United States’ intervention in Hawaiʻi rooted in either the trope of Euro- American “uplift” or of simple-hearted people victimised by colonialism. Helekūnihi’s career in the church, education, law and politics reveals a dynamic, nuanced and independent agency that contradicts expectations of how an Hawaiian patriot might act. His life also demonstrates the vital role of pre-contact tradition in determining the essential Hawaiianness of the Calvinist Christian order that the early nineteenth-century chiefs adopted and established as a national church. Helekūnihi’s fidelity to that order informed his decision to support the annexation of Hawaiʻi by the United States, which occurred in 1898, two years after his death. The dissertation reveals the persistence of a dynamic Hawaiian culture across the long nineteenth century by exploring the role of tradition behind Helekūnihi’s enigmatic choice. What constituted the rationale of a man of the elite class, devoted to both his nation and its ancient traditions, to support the processes that ultimately led to the overthrow of indigenous governance and the subversion of those same traditions? The final betrayal of Elia Helekūnihi illustrates the tragic dimension of empire, whereby even Native people complicit in the imperial project were seldom given a place in the colonial order.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Department of History
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: A General Works > AI Indexes (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
E History America > E11 America (General)
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
L Education > L Education (General)


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