"A Fascinating Interracial Experiment Station": Remapping the Orient-Occident Divide in Hawai'i
During the 1920s and 1930s, American intellectuals on the U.S. continent often described Hawai'i as a "racial frontier," a meeting ground between East and West where "unorthodox" social relations between Native Hawaiians, Asians, and Caucasians had taken root. The frontier metaphor evoked two very different images, the "racial paradise" and the "racial nightmare," and in both characterizations, Asians figured prominently. In 1930, of the islands' civilian population of nearly 350,000, about 236,000 or 68 percent were classified as Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, or Korean.2 Political, religious, and educational leaders in Hawai'i were the main propagators of the racial paradise image, which expressed optimism in the ability of Caucasians and Asians to live together, while also celebrating the presence of Portuguese, Spanish, Puerto Ricans, Native Hawaiians, and an array of mixed-race groups.3 They touted the assimilative powers of American institutions and promoted Hawai'i as a model of colonial progress to audiences on the U.S. mainland. David Crawford, the president of the University of Hawai'i,4 summarized this view during a 1929 visit to Los Angeles where he spoke before a group called the Advertising Club. Hawai'i society, explained Crawford, was "demonstrating the possibility of the meeting of Orient and Occident on terms of friendship that practically eliminate race prejudice."
Lee, Shelley Sang-Hee and Richard Baldoz. 2008. "'A Fascinating Interracial Experiment Station': Remapping the Orient-Occident Divide in Territorial Hawai'i." American Studies 49(3/4): 87-109.
Mid-America American Studies Association
Comparative American Studies
Shelley Sang-Hee Lee, Comparative American Studies and History
Richard Baldoz, Sociology and Comparative American Studies