Skip to main content

The Environment Forum with Hiʻilei Hobart | What Returns, What Remains: A Story about Hawaiian Landscape and Dis/Possession

Emerson Hall, Room 105

In February 2020, a group of Kanaka ‘Ōiwi cultural practitioners arrived in Cambridge, England, to repatriate ancestral remains stolen from Hawaiʻi in the late nineteenth century. This article explores the possession, return, and interpretation of these remains, specifically 14 iwi poʻo (human skulls) originating from the Pali, an important historic battle site in the Koʻolau mountain range of Oʻahu. In telling the story of their possession and dispossession, I draw upon theories of haunting from Indigenous studies and Black studies in order to challenge the way that settler colonial structures work to limit and potentially foreclose Hawaiian relationships to spiritual presence and placemaking. Drawing upon the Native Hawaiian concept of hoʻopahulu, which encompasses both spectrality and the exhaustion of land from over-farming in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language), this article highlights connections between land, spirit, and haunting that provide a more comprehensive framework for understanding spectral placemaking beyond colonial geographies. In doing so, I argue against possessive logics, showing how contemporary Hawaiian cultural geogrpahies fundamentally refuse, upend, and replant relations that exceed the American state.

This event is co-sponsored by the Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability

For full details, visit: