Kiana Schmitt Humanities and Social Science
Whose Word Is It Anyway? The Rhetoric of [Re]Claiming Indigenous Language and Mixed Race [Dis]Identification
The Native Hawaiian word “hapa” has undergone an extraordinary rhetorical and linguistic evolution. From signifying half-foreigner” (colloquially, foreigner meaning “white, due to influx of white Europeans and Americans forcibly entering Hawaii since the late 18th century), to “part Hawaiian, part white,” then part Hawaiian,” to half-Asian or Pacific Islander (API) and half-White,” to simply “half-Asian or Pacific Islander (API).” While some see its current usage as a rhetorical site of API community building and empowerment, others feel that non-Native Hawaiian people do not have a right to use it. It is also contested whether the term is rooted in derogatory connotation, or is simply a neutral identifier. I seek to pinpoint the rhetorical trajectory of how and why “hapa” arrived at its current usage, and how this relates to self-[dis]identification of mixed race communities in the context of settler colonialism and the Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement.