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What is a Polynesian? This talk examines the history of Western social scientific studies of the Polynesian race which claimed that Polynesians were almost Caucasian. Arvin argues that such claims formed a key component of settler colonial ideology in Hawaiʻi and Polynesia, which Arvin calls the logic of possession through whiteness. In the logic of possession through whiteness, both Polynesia (the place) and Polynesians (the people) become exotic, feminized possessions of whiteness—possessions that never have the power to claim the property of whiteness for themselves. Instead, the Polynesian race is repeatedly positioned as almost white (even literally as descendants of the Aryan race), in such a way that allows white settlers to claim indigeneity in Polynesia, since according to this logic, whiteness itself is Indigenous to Polynesia. The talk analyzes this logic specifically in physical anthropology of the early twentieth century, alongside a contemporary response to this logic in the art of Sāmoan artist Yuki Kihara.

Prerecorded Lecture:

Talk with be a live Q&A.


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