115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Interrogating the Rhetoric of Tourism in Culture- and Place-Based Text

Sarah Goodson, "University of Hawaii, Manoa"

Examining enticement to exotic Hawaiʻi through modes of travel literature, I investigate the interrogation of economic colonialism through tourism by Native writers and culture in Hawaiian literature.  Authenticity intersecting with fantasy articulates the challenge for Native Hawaiians to restore their identity separate from stereotypes formed in outsider place-based literature.     


How do we perceive Hawaiʻi, those of us whose roots have grown deep and across the Mainland United States?  The allure of Paradise--miles of sandy beaches gleaming beneath the tropical sun, cerulean waves breaking at the shoreline, the vast Pacific spread out and open and disappearing into the haze of the warm horizon--calls travelers from around the world, in particular to this paper from the United States, to “experience aloha” and to the promise of a tropical respite from their everyday lives.  This rhetoric is formed by several endeavors, notably through the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority and its visitor welcome campaigns, through film, and through literature.  Discussing modes of tourism and travel text, beginning with a brief introduction to the infancy of class tourism from the United States and the text and film advertisements that hyperbolized Hawaiʻi as an exotic fantasy, I will demonstrate the ways in which Hawaiian culture interrogates the culture of Hawaiʻi introduced and developed through the tourism industry.  While Hawaiian literature, literature of Hawaiʻi, and literature about Hawaiʻi are three distinct categories of place- and culture-based writing, the elements of travel and tourism¾in conjunction with the visual and imaginative creations and representations of Hawaiʻi and the welcoming, hospitable Hawaiian¾both introduce and entice outsiders toward a promise of escape from their own realities by entering the reality of a romanticized, but colonial, Native space.

            Rhetorical strategies in the published writing about cultural space leads outsiders toward specific associations and expectations of that space: hula dancers in nightly revue shows, fusion menus featuring interpreted cultural cuisines, the conflation of popular beaches (like Waikīkī) with the entirety of Hawaiʻi, couture fashion and outdoor malls, Pidgin handbooks, and the shaka.  Rarely do stories about Hawaiʻi promote traditional forms of culture, such as nurturing kalo at the loʻi or practicing kuleana toward Native land.  Tourists arrive in Hawaiʻi and enter a space of duality: of identity, history, tradition, and modernity.  Travel literature does not address the dilemma of duality in colonial Native places, instead pointing to the beauty and grandeur of a place ready for consumptive practices.  Through my discussion of cultural interrogation, I will focus on the literatures produced by outsiders whose experiences have been limited either to brief excursions or to in-depth research, as well as inquisition and resistance by Native scholars whose cultural integrity and traditions continue to be challenged and overturned by the necessity of a tourism economy.  One question to address remains whether contemporary Native authors employ the same rhetoric in their Hawaiian literatures, or resist it by prioritizing the intrinsic value of cultural tradition over the forced, and adopted, value of the tourist machine.    

The intersection of literature, travel texts like advertisements, and culture serve to reveal the subtle ways in which Hawaiʻi remains a colonial place addressed by the paradox of a post-colonial world.