Hawaiian Expressivity in Socio-Cultural Context
Dive deeply into Hawaiian history, religion, philosophy, language, and cultural expression, in a thoroughgoing interdisciplinary and integrative program based in the Humanities disciplines. The course will be based on the island of Oahu, with a field trip planned to Hawai’i (the “Big Island”). Become grounded in Hawaiian society and history through a rich mixture of academic coursework and experiential study, encountering insider perspectives of enculturated Hawaiian artists from a variety of disciplines.
Earn 4 Wheaton credits in MUSC 298:
Course 1: Mele and Hula: Hawaiian Music and Dance (Weeks 1-6)
The course will introduce and follow the genres, forms, and core concepts of Hawai’ian mele (music, song) and hula (dance) from the pre-contact period through the advent of European/ American influence, and consider the contexts within which these forms are performed and debated: festivals, competitions, and luaus for starters. The course covers the adoption of European musical forms and instruments in Hawai’i, and the incorporation of Hawai’ian artistic forms into American popular culture. While through most of the 20th century Hawai’i was presented to the mainland United States in a heavily mediated and exoticised manner by the entertainment industry, there was at the same time an important revival of the arts going on back home as part of a socio-cultural negotiation, defining indigenous identity and expressive traditions within the context of U.S. occupation. This course will integrate academic and experiential transmission practices, with a practicum component provided by enculturated practitioners.
Course 2: Hawaiian History, Social Structure, and Language (Weeks 1-6)
Overview of Hawaiian history; pre-contact social structure; the coming of Capt. James Cook and other explorers; the encounter of indigenous religion with Western missionization; the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy by American businessmen resident in Hawai’i and the ensuing colonial period; the role of the ali’i (noble class) and royal family in preservation and spread of Hawaiian poetry and literature; 20th century cultural revival and establishment of the Kamehameha Schools (Hawaiian medium education). A program of guest lectures will include visits from a Hawaiian language specialist, to help us understand the extraordinary value placed on indigenous language and the literary traditions found within spoken poetry, devotional chanting and musical lyricism.
Course 3: Visions of Society (Weeks 7-12)
Profiles of current critical issues on Oahu and Hawai’i (the Big Island) including debates over tourism development, the cultural impact of colonialism, and the collision of Euro-American and indigenous world views. The course will give attention to issues particular to the Big Island, including an ongoing debate over proposed construction of a huge 30 meter telescope by international scientific institutions on Mauna Kea, considered one of the most sacred mountains to Hawaiians (construction has been postponed since 2015 by the state supreme court). We will visit the Origins Exploration Museum of the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center which attempts to build bridges across the divide, narrating side-by-side stories about the origin of the universe from a Western scientific perspective and an indigenous point of view. We will also visit the west coast of the Big Island which has the greatest concentration of pre-contact archaeological sites in the Hawaiian Islands.
Course 4: Independent study and research project (Weeks 7-12)
Each student will pursue a topic with regard to a particular area of interest, incorporating fieldwork and secondary sources for theoretical consideration and analysis. We’re hoping students will be able to focus on a topic also relevant to their major at Wheaton. We will advise students to work with their major advisors before departure so the Independent Study (and, potentially, other courses listed above) can satisfy a requirement, connection, or perhaps contribute to subsequent academic work: for instance, providing groundwork for a senior thesis.