"Mo’olelo and Mele in Hawaiian Epistemology: The English-language imposition of Heteropatriarchy & Heteronormativity onto Native Hawaiian Multiple Unions and Sexual Practices”

Catherine Ulep
Date and Time:

537 Heller Hall (ICGC)

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Centering non-chiefly Hawaiian women in foreign arrivals to Hawai’i from the 1780s to 1840s shows how these women drew on an understanding of their world to become the primary traders of goods and services. This vantage point orients our attention to the multiplicity of forces like Hawaiian and foreign governance, commercial, and religious interests that sought to govern Hawaiian women, their bodies, and sexual practices. This talk will examine Native Hawaiian epistemologies and language, revealing a society that has multiple privileged unions. This knowledge necessitates understanding why Hawaiian women openly went out to ships to sleep with foreign visitors at the turn of the nineteenth century. Sharing examples of destruction and desire, this talk draws on a larger dissertation project about Hawaiian women as active agents, rather than coerced victims, broadening our understanding of how the trade of sexual labor and goods with foreigners offered opportunities for the accrual of imports.


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About the Speaker

Catherine ʻĪmaikalani Ulep is a Kanaka Maoli Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota’s history department, specializing in Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) history. She enjoys researching sites in which Indigenous gender systems, material culture, and cross-cultural relations intersect.

Interdisciplinary Research Colloquium

The Interdisciplinary Research Colloquium series offers informal lectures and discussions on current research projects by ICGC Scholars, affiliated faculty, visiting scholars, and practitioners. These events are open to the public. Guests are welcome to bring their lunches and eat during the sessions.