From Settler Colonialism to Overseas Empire: Citizenship and Resistance in Hawai’i

Maye Henning, Johns Hopkins University

In 1898, the U.S. government annexed the Hawaiian islands and soon after passed a law granting collective citizenship. This paper investigates how the acquisition of Hawai’i marked an important transition from settler colonialism to overseas empire for the U.S. and enabled both conquest and opportunities for native resistance. By 1898, the U.S. had settled the west and begun to expand overseas. As it acquired overseas lands, American officials were confronted with choices about how to govern its new territorial acquisitions and how these acquisitions would fit into the existing model of state building, predicated on settlement and statehood. The U.S. would eventually grant collective citizenship to Hawai’i in 1900 and then statehood 1959, but incorporation was far from a foregone conclusion. In this paper, I explore how the U.S. made decisions about citizenship and statehood, and in part, paved the way for later U.S. territories. Finally, for many years before and after its acquisition, native Hawaiians opposed U.S. rule and U.S. citizenship. Yet in the aftermath of annexation, native Hawaiians turned their U.S. citizenship into a form of political power to resist U.S. colonialism.

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 Presented in Session 38. Enforcing Boundaries of Belonging in the (Post)Colonial State