Ask the kumu: A qualitative study of Native Hawaiian perspectives on Hawai`i’s promotional images

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Parker, Margaret Penniman
article description
Organizations promoting tourism to a destination often rely on images of native cultures to establish a sense of difference, “Otherness,” or authenticity. Advertising and public relations professionals, however, often form cultural representations without understanding important cultural values and beliefs. This research establishes a way to examine promotional images from within the culture in order to determine whether those representations convey ideas that align with the culture’s own values, traditions and beliefs. I employed a photo elicitation method while conducting nine in-depth interviews with individuals of Native Hawaiian ancestry to understand cultural perspectives on a set of promotional images. The interview transcripts were then qualitatively analyzed to find out how images contributed to cultural stereotyping and myth. The study finds that most of the image set conveys a narrow and limited view of the Native Hawaiian culture. Additionally, insights are reported on how certain images align with Hawaiian cultural values. How images form expectations, particularly false or limited expectations on the part of the visitor and limited expectations on the part of the Native Hawaiian also comes out in this study. This research may form the basis to foster image use that provides more depth, breadth and alignment with a native culture’s own long and rich history.