This issue we feature 5 Questions with… J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, associate professor of American studies, associate professor of anthropology.
Q. How did you become interested in your area of study?
JKK: My area of study is related to researching the history of U.S. imperialism in the Pacific Islands. Researching indigenous issues in Hawai`i, I found it necessary to study how the U.S. government has treated Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) in light of its U.S. federal policy on American Indians and Alaska Natives. The policy is convoluted. The U.S. government has alternately classified Kanaka Maoli, as well as other Native Pacific Islanders under the Asian or “Asian Pacific” category, but since 1906, Kanaka Maoli have also specifically been included in over 160 legislative acts that apply to American Indians. This contradiction has pushed me to better understand U.S. racial formations and indigenous sovereignty politics. This has led me to other research areas, including settler colonialism, self-determination, decolonization, and international law.
Q. What was the most interesting aspect of researching and writing your recent book Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity?
JKK: My book critically examines how “blood racialization” defines Hawaiian identity as measurable and dilutable. Blood racialization is the process by which racial meaning is ascribed—in this case to Kanaka Maoli – through ideologies of blood quantum. The contemporary