“A Fascinating Interracial Experiment Station”: Remapping the Orient-Occident Divide in Hawaii

Shelley Sang-Hee Lee, Rick A. Baldoz


This article examines social science scholarship about interracial marriage and race relations in 1920s and 1930s Hawaii. Prominent members of the ‘Chicago School’ of Sociology regularly viewed Hawaii as a real world social laboratory where new and unorthodox race relations had taken hold. Hawaii’s unusually high rate of intermarriage was seen as important, insofar as it represented a drastic change in customary rules of social distance adhered to in the United States. These scholars argued that Hawaii might serve as a model for more harmonious race relations on the U.S. mainland. While liberal in outlook, Chicago School scholars frequently fell prey to the Orientalist assumptions of their period upholding whiteness as the primary civilizing force in the islands and downplaying patterns of racial division and stratification in Hawaii.

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American Studies. ISSN 0026-3079.

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