Pacific Confluence: Fighting Over the Nation in Nineteenth-Century Hawai'i

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by Christen T. Sasaki

University of California Press

11/29/2022, paperback

SKU: 9780520382763


The 1898 annexation of Hawaiʻi to the US is often framed as an inevitable step in American expansion--but it was never a foregone conclusion. By pairing the intimate and epic together in critical juxtaposition, Christen T. Sasaki reveals the unstable nature not just of the coup state but of the US empire itself. The attempt to create a US-backed white settler state in Hawaiʻi sparked a turn-of-the-century debate about race-based nationalism and state-based sovereignty and jurisdiction that was contested on the global stage. Centered around a series of flash points that exposed the fragility of the imperial project, Pacific Confluence examines how the meeting and mixing of ideas that occurred between Hawaiians and Japanese, white American, and Portuguese transients and settlers led to the dynamic rethinking of the modern nation-state.


"A groundbreaking study of settler colonialisms and relational racial formations in late nineteenth-century Hawaiʻi. Theoretically sophisticated and empirically rich, this densely textured book documents the complex entanglement of multiple imperial powers, haole insurrectionists, and the Hawaiian Kingdom and people that culminated in clashing visions of nation, state, sovereignty, and land." -- Eiichiro Azuma, author of In Search of Our Frontier: Japanese America and Settler Colonialism in the Construction of Japan's Borderless Empire

"Anyone who thinks US imperial control of Hawaiʻi was and is inevitable should read this book. Highlighting competing empires and analyzing white supremacy in imperial projects, Christen Sasaki reveals the instability of the settler coup state and of US empire in the islands." -- Noelani Goodyear-Kaʻōpua, Professor of Political Science, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

"The 1890s brought a maelstrom of change to the peoples and the nation of Hawaiʻi. Sasaki's thoughtful examination of the interactions in that decade among Native Hawaiians, white settler coup plotters, Japanese immigrant laborers, and the governments of Portugal, Japan, and the United States illuminates that those various actors' ideas and strategies about nationhood, citizenship, empire, and US-owned white settler imperial outposts were by no means inevitable. She calls us to consider the contingency of history and other, perhaps better paths that might have been taken, and some that still might be possible." -- Paul Spickard, coeditor of Shape Shifters: Journeys across Terrains of Race and Identity

About the Author:

Christen T. Sasaki is Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego.