After starting her lecture by singing a greeting in Hawaiian, Professor Noenoe K. Silva, of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, thanked the audience, which packed the Mansfield Freeman Center on Friday in order participate in the Symposium on Indigenous Politics. Looking across at the students, faculty, and staff filling the room, Silva acknowledged those present for participating in the Symposium, sponsored by the Center for the Americas.
“This wouldn’t happen in Hawaii, everyone would be out surfing,” she joked.
Silva, the first of two presenters, was rightly impressed with the turnout. Of the 75 students who came to the symposium, only 28 were required to attend for a class, according to the event’s moderator and main organizer, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and American Studies J. Kehaulani Kauanui.
The lectures, featuring Silva and Professor Florencia Mallon P’08 of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, focused on indigenous politics in Hawaii and Chile. Kauanui noted that the symposium was a nice follow-up to the 2006 Americas Forum, “Politics in Sovereignty: Colonial Legacies in Oceania,” which was held in September.
Silva spoke extensively about her current project of documenting, studying, and publicizing the hundreds of unknown writers who published works in the Hawaiian language between 1835 and 1948. The presentation focused on one particular author, Joseph Hoonaauao Kanepuu, who published articles in the Hawaiian language press throughout the 1800s.
Lindsay Kukona ’07, who is writing her thesis on the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, was particularly interested in Silva’s presentation.
“Silva is an important Hawaiian academic and activist,” Kukona said. “It was great to hear her talk about a new project.”
Mallon spoke of the Mapuche people of Chile, reflecting on the many different views on Mapuche political and intellectual identity held by various generations throughout the 20th century. Mallon began her lecture by discussing the identity-based politics of the Mapuche during the 1990s, and then went on to discuss the class-based politics of the early 1970s and the current views of young Mapuche intellectuals.
Among the audience members was Mallon’s son, Raffi Stern ’08, a College of Social Studies (CSS) and Economics double major. This was not the first time that Stern had seen his mother speak at the University – Mallon was invited by the CSS department to give a lecture last year. Stern admitted that he and his mother do not share identical fields of interest, but that she has certainly influenced his studies.
“I think my mom’s interest in social justice more generally has shaped how I’ve approached my academic career,” Stern said.
The symposium was a required event for Professor Kauanui’s American Studies classes “Methodologies in Ethnic Studies” and “The United States in the Pacific Islands”, although it attracted many of her previous students as well.
Ruby-Beth Buitekant ’09, who took two classes with Kauanui in previous semesters, was struck by a shared thread between the presenters’ topics.
“Something really interesting about both [Silva and Mallon] is that the populations they’re investigating are so incredibly underrepresented,” she said.
Students at the symposium seemed to interact with the speakers every opportunity they received. Although the event was scheduled to run from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., it ran overtime as students sought responses to their many queries during the question-and-answer portion with the presenters Following the symposium, students spilled into the hallway for a reception and continued to ask questions and discuss their individual classwork and opinions with Mallon and Silva.