Lei Stories: Experiences and Practices Behind Lei Production in Hawaii

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Nishida, Junko
polynesia-hawai'i, asia-taiwan
artifact description
With the emergence of a globalized capitalist economy, discussions regarding social meanings of things are constructed more around symbols: how things are represented and categorized, rather than practice: how things are produced and consumed. Especially in Hawai‘i, where tourism has a strong presence in the landscapes and the lives of people, issues concerning representation of “Hawaiian culture” are widely argued both in the business and academic arenas. Lei, which is generally regarded as a “Hawaiian cultural commodity,” circulates widely within both the everyday life of the local community and the tourist industry. While much of the discussion of lei is centered on its representation and authenticity, its production processes remain unrevealed. Who are the producers? Under what conditions do they make lei? What are the local and extra-local connections involved in the production process? Through following the chain of production and consumption, my project aims to outline the interconnectedness of people and their social activities in relation to today’s capitalist economy. Choosing lei as a product of research is, therefore, a challenge for naturalized thinking processes about culture and its connection to everyday material life.