Possessions of Whiteness: Settler Colonialism and Anti-Blackness in the Pacific

Decolonization

I confess: I avoided watching the 2011 Oscar award-winning movie The Descendants (directed by the acclaimed Alexander Payne of Sideways and Nebraska, starring George Clooney) for a long time. I had read the book of the same name, by Kaui Hart Hemmings, on which the movie is based. I have complicated feelings about the book—a witty and often wrenching portrayal of a rich Native Hawaiian family that doesn’t seem to feel, look, or know much about being Native Hawaiian. Though I recognize such struggles, about feeling or being disconnected from your own culture and nation, as a very Native story (or perhaps, more precisely, as the story of settler colonialism), I don’t recognize the ending of Hemmings’ story. After much turmoil, the protagonist of her novel decides not to sell the land he has inherited from his family. It is hard to connect with the rich protagonists of Hemmings’…

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