The Embodiment of Knowledge
Yitazba Largo-Anderson

thank you for addressing one of the most fundamental aspects of understanding culture — epistemology, or the underpinnings of knowledge — what it is, how it is acquired, how it is defined, transmitted, preserved, and how it evolves. a quick survey of posts here on Medium tagged “Hawaii” quickly reveal how Hawai‘i is seen by commercial interests, visitors, and even by its own colonized residents. you offer a critical point that gets to the core of the oppression of Hawai‘i, an understanding that is deeper than simply the historical facts of colonization, overthrow, exploitation, and oppression.

unfortunately, in Hawai‘i, the colonization of the people and land included the colonization of Hawaiian epistemology. it continues to this day, with land development, tourism, militarism, commercialism, andcapitalism. Bodies are colonized by western moralities of sexuality and gender identity. Land, plants, animals, the ocean, the air, ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian language), and nā poe Hawai‘i (Hawaiian people) are reduced to commercial, capitalist commodities for land development, tourism, and militarism, perverted and stripped of their cultural meanings and contexts.

By attacking the very foundation of Hawaiian epistemology, westerners were able to force nā kanaka maoli (indigenous Hawaiians) to accept western models of education, language, law, religion, morality, and economics that served the colonial opportunists. It took nearly two hundred years for that yoke to be gradually recognized and challenged at an internal level, and slowly, to gain sufficient traction in a growing cultural awareness and identity that can slowly begin to manifest in political and practical reality.

it is important that non-western epistemologies be recognized, respected, and restored (how many have NOT been colonized?). The wrongs of centuries of colonialism and imperialism cannot be righted without addressing the attacks on the very platform of systems of knowledge upon which oppressed cultures are based.