Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An OWS Thanksgiving

In previous years, whenever holidays like Thanksgiving rolled around, many of the marriage equality groups that I support have sent out messages calling on us to have "courageous conversations" with family members around the dining room table. Be courageous, they say. Bring up your support for marriage equality. Explain why this matters so much. Hearing from someone they know and love as much as they know and love you might just change the way your family thinks about this topic.

Well I've done that. And it all finally paid off here in New York when in June the New York State legislature passed the Marriage Equality Act!

This year, I suspect the dining room "courageous conversation" will be about Occupy Wall Street. (But I've promised myself not to voluntarily bring the subject up on Thanksgiving, because my parents taught me never to bring up religion or politics when dining with company. That's generally a good rule. So that's why I'm bringing the subject up here in this post!)

What am I thankful for?

My "courageous conversation" about Occupy Wall Street takes the form of a list of all the people I am thankful for this Thanksgiving. So here goes...

I am thankful for my family. For my mother who always warns me to stay safe and not get too occupied (pun intended!) with dangerous pursuits. Now she and I agree to disagree about the exact dangerousness of Occupy Wall Street. I argue that the mainstream media has overly exaggerated any dangers; yet on the other hand, first hand experiences have shown me that if any danger is underplayed by the media, it is the danger posed by the NYPD towards peaceful, nonviolent protestors. So I try to stay close to my friends in the movement, because they will protect me, and I them. And we all try to keep a good distance from the police. Don't worry, mom. I've got thousands of supporters here who will protect me!

NYPD "white shirts" and riot police at Washington Square Park, Oct. 15

Yes, I am thankful for my family. For my grandmother who warned me on facebook (and for that, you are the coolest grandma!) to not get overly occupied with dangerous pursuits. For her, and for everyone else in this family, I have to explain that what it looks like I'm doing on facebook is not exactly the same as what I spend my time doing in real life. I might read for four to six hours each day, but I don't broadcast that exceedingly boring news to the world every day via social media! On the other hand, when I attend a march or rally and I witness the police using excessive force or disallowing us to engage in our constitutionally protected forms of speech or assembly, yes I do post the heck out of that onto facebook, with photos, and videos, and whatever other evidence I have. Because we are up against a Goliath here: a mayor who is one of the 20 richest persons in the United States and could care less about us, and a police force that is corrupt, deceptive, and has shown itself willing to bend and break the law as they see fit. Our power is in the stories we can tell, and that, my family, is why your news feeds are always overflowing with radical postings from my wall!

NYPD as Goliath. Multitudes of riot police against handfuls of protestors. This was 3 am on Nov. 15, the night of the raid on Liberty Square.

I am so thankful for my family. Today I left militarized Manhattan for the peace of my upstate childhood home. I got home today, to be with my parents and my brother. We have already had many "courageous conversations" about Occupy Wall Street. But I know here, in the safety and security of my home, among my own kin, that these are safe conversations to have. That we can agree to disagree and still love and respect one another. And even if the conversation with family most frequently revolves around questions of personal safety rather than economic inequality, I know this is because I have people who love me deeply, and care deeply for me. And I love you in return. This is why I came home for Thanksgiving. Standing on Wall Street makes me angry. But sitting around the table with you makes me smile.

I am also thankful for more than just my family.

I am thankful for my friends. For my best friend, my partner, my companion through everything, night and day, rain or shine, winter, spring, summer, or fall (all you've got to do is call), I am so thankful for your unceasing, unfailing, limitless love. But on this special OWS Thanksgiving, I am particularly thankful that you support my involvement in this movement. Most telling, in everything we've been through in these past two months, was the comment you sent me online the morning after I had ran around downtown Manhattan all night trying to comfort and support those who were violently evicted from Liberty Square (Zuccotti Park). You told me that you were "so proud." I was afraid you were going to be mad at me for being so reckless, for staying out on the street all night until 10am in the morning, facing off against police half of the time. But you told me you were "proud," and that one word from you made me ten times stronger. I love you so much. Thank you for your love.

Facing off against police near Liberty Square, 2:30 am, Nov. 15, night of the eviction.

I am thankful for my friends. For my friends who have gone down to Liberty Square on their own initiative, who have recorded the stories of the occupants, have taken photos, and have supported the movement. For my friends who introduced me to the movement in the first place, when the subject came up at a dinner party with friends on Oct. 1, and I heard for the first time about the 700 protestors who had just been arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge. Without friends to share their knowledge, ideas, and insight with me, I would not have come to the movement in the first place, to march with OWS on Oct. 5 along Broadway, to visit Liberty Square for the first time that night, and to give myself, slowly, and cautiously, but with growing determination, to this nascent movement.


One of our friends has been recording video of the occupation at Liberty Square since nearly the beginning. This video is from Oct. 4.

I am thankful for my friends. For the ones who disagree with me. Who say that we are all whiny babies just asking for government handouts. Thank you for the courage to share your criticisms with me. I have never been as sure about the importance of Occupy Wall Street as I am now, but it has taken most of the past two months for me to get to this point. I did not just unquestioningly jump onto this bandwagon. There are some aspects of OWS I still disagree with. You have helped me work through many of these issues by criticizing and questioning me and the movement. Thank you for making this harder for me! Which in the end somehow makes things easier. That's because debate and dialogue are more productive that shouting matches and standoffs. (Ironically, though, I do appreciate a good "mic-check" now and then!)


Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin gets "mic-checked" by Occupy Chicago, Nov. 3.

But I am thankful for more than just family and friends.

I am thankful for Occupy Wall Street, too.

Now what does that mean?

I am thankful for the young man who marched next to me on Oct. 5 and held this sign (and that's me in the red shirt with the blue-green backpack!):

Oct. 5 march with organized labor to Liberty Square.

I am thankful for the union men and women, and students, and 9 to 5 workers, who showed up at 6am on Oct. 14 to help defend Occupy Wall Street from eviction. I am thankful to the young men and women who brought brooms and who swept down the park, showing Mayor Bloomberg that we could keep the park clean without the NYPD's "help."

I am thankful for the drummers, of the group Pulse, who have drummed away at Occupy Wall Street since the beginning. For the drum circle on Broadway on Oct. 14 where any and everyone was welcome to grab a drumstick and hit something. For the young woman with the dyed hair who I have seen at every single OWS event these past two months, for just being there, I thank you. When you go to enough of these things, you start to recognize the people who hold the whole thing together. I thank you for being there day in and day out. And for the crazy man who dances so wildly, yet captivates protestors and Wall Street bankers alike with his movements, I thank you. I especially like the dance you do where you point a finger at your forehead and tell us to "think" to the beat of the drums. You made me think, for sure, and I also bet you have made many others think. (If you haven't seen him dance yet, he appears a few times in the clip below.)


Pulse drum circle at Liberty Square, Oct. 14, including the "think" dancer.

I am thankful for those around me, at Times Square on Oct. 15, who taught me new chants.

Over 5,000 assembled at Times Square on Oct. 15.

For the older man with the thick immigrant accent who couldn't keep up with the chant "Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!" But he tried his best. And he screamed out the words with conviction and passion. I was so proud to stand with you.

Times Square, Oct. 15.

I am thankful for the NYU students who made room for me to sit on top of a row of police barricades with them at Washington Square Park in the middle of the night on Oct. 15 so that I could participate in my first General Assembly. I thank the young man in front of me for teaching me how the "human microphone" works. And for teaching me the hand signals for "I like," "I'm not sure," and "I don't like," as well as "Get to the point already," and "I can't hear you!"

My first General Assembly. 1,000 gathered at Washington Square Park, Oct. 15.

I am thankful for the reporter from South Korea who really wanted to talk to me at Washington Square Park that evening at 11:50pm, but who finally agreed to exit the park with me before 30-40 riot police were to come in and bang our heads in for breaking the midnight curfew. I had to ditch him, but I hope he got a good story out of it anyway!

Police guard the Washington Square Arch after the midnight curfew has passed, in the wee hours of Oct. 16.

I am thankful for whoever ordered the pizza that night, and for the young female student who nicknamed it "NYPD pizza." We all got a kick out of that!

Two students, many police. Washington Square Park, Oct. 15-16.

I am thankful for Pete Seeger, and Arlo Guthrie, and the other folk legends who led us in a march from the Upper West Side down to Columbus Circle in the middle of a cold night on Oct. 21. I am thankful for Pete, who at 92 years old, marched and sang with vigor! And to Pete, again, for teaching me some new songs, like: "Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around. Turn me around. Turn me around. Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around. Just gonna keep on walkin'. Keep on talkin'. Marching down to Freedomland."


Pete Seeger, 92 years old, marches and sings with us on Oct. 21.

I am thankful for the young woman who I met at Wall Street and Broadway on the morning of the first eviction attempt at Liberty Square. We were watching the NYPD restrict access to only those with company IDs. I am thankful for the man behind me screaming "Show me your papers" in a fake German accent. I did not agree with his analogy between this situation and Nazi Germany, but I respected and thought hard about his point. And so I thank him for that. I was thankful to meet the same woman again on Oct. 28 in front of the public library as we prepared to march on bank headquarters at midtown. She had my back when we confronted the police, and she shared a snack with me when I was tired and hungry. Thank you!

Oct. 28, meeting in front of the public library for our march on the banks.

I am thankful for the young man who got really angry at that protest, who raised his voice against the bankers. He pointed at them and yelled "Shame! Shame!" Your strength in turn strengthened me and others. You inspired us to be stronger in our collective resolve. Thank you.

I am thankful for the Chase employee who collected thousands of letters we delivered for the banks written by people from all across America. And for those banks who refused our letters, thank you for letting us fold them up and throw them as paper airplanes at your corporate doorstep.


"You've Got Mail" Occupy the Boardroom march on the banks, Oct. 28.

I am thankful for the Occupy Wall Street Jobless Working Group. I am thankful for all unemployed and underemployed people who have found an "occupation" here at OWS. Others will say that you'd be better off looking for work and applying for jobs rather than holding banners and marching with us, but they are wrong. (And of course you can, and do, do both.) It will be because of your self-sacrifices that we will create the public support necessary for passing a true jobs bill, with teeth, in the U.S. Congress. But there will always be a job for you, if you want it, right here with us, letting people know that unemployment and underemployment is no fault of our own. It is the fault of a much larger system that advantages the wealthiest and disadvantages the rest of us.

Members of the Jobless Working Group at Union Square, Nov. 6.

I am thankful for the New Museum, for "subletting" your event permit to the Occupy Wall Street Arts and Culture Working Group on Nov. 6 so that we could witness some amazing performance art at Union Square. I am thankful that you stood up to the police who wanted to shut you down. Your subversion of the "law" was beautiful and inspiring.

I am thankful for the NYU, CUNY, New School, and other student bodies who continue to convene every Saturday at noon at Washington Square Park to discuss issues that matter most to students.

All-NYC Student General Assembly at Washington Square Park, Nov. 5.

I am thankful to everyone who has ever occupied Liberty Square (Zuccotti Park), up until that last fateful night, Nov. 14-15, when Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly violently evicted you from what was your home. They called you dirty, deranged, and lawless. But I visited you countless times and all I ever saw at Liberty Square was cooperation, creativity, and passion. I saw white people and black people, young and old, male and female, living together in an environment where everyone's voices were heard, and where none were turned away.

Liberty Square, as it was, on a very cold morning, Nov. 5.

I thank the Kitchen for feeding everyone.

I thank Comfort for clothing and sheltering everyone.

I thank all the New Yorkers and visitors who donated food to the Kitchen, or who donated clothing, tents, or sleeping bags to Comfort. Many of our donations were destroyed during the NYPD raid on Nov. 15, but our donations were not in vain. Some criticized that Liberty Square was attracting the homeless. I say, good! I say, thank you to OWS for feeding the homeless. Thank you for sheltering and clothing the homeless. New York City has an estimated 40,000 people who sleep on the street or in emergency shelters every night. Those are 40,000 voices we need to hear. Those are voices that belong on Wall Street, and don't let anyone ever say that they were a "bad element" at Liberty Square. The bad element is, and has always been, inside of the corporate buildings on Wall Street.

A spiritual space, a place for centering, at Liberty Square, Oct. 14.

I thank all the media. I thank those who publish the Occupied Wall Street Journal. I have collected all five issues so far, and I have submitted a piece for your next issue, if you'll accept it. I thank those who produce and participate in Occupied Wall Street Radio. I try to listen every weeknight at 6:30pm to your informative and insightful program.

I thank everyone who has ever taken a picture or produced a video clip about something they saw at Occupy Wall Street. We are the media. Facebook, twitter, and youtube have blown up with our own creations. And that's the way it should be. We know the story better than those on the outside. So let's tell it! (And yet I also thank the card-carrying journalists. The NYPD have bonked you on the heads, and have arrested you, for trying to tell our stories. Thank you for doing everything you can to share our stories with the world.)

I am thankful for those who led me to Foley Square at 3 am on the morning of the eviction. I am thankful for those who facilitated that emergency General Assembly. I am thankful for the young man who slept beside me around 6 am as the sun rose, and who made a little space so that I could shut my eye for a second, too, as I leaned up against a cold concrete wall. I am thankful for the guy who showed up with piles of Occupied Wall Street Journals for us to look at while we waited for Bloomberg's morning press conference.

Dawn at Foley Square, after the eviction from Liberty Square, Nov. 15. We slept whenever and wherever we could.

I am thankful for those who scaled the wall at Duarte Square at 9 am that morning.

Duarte Square, the morning after the eviction, Nov. 15.

I am thankful to the National Lawyers Guild, and to the OWS Legal Team. You have drilled your phone number into my brain for all time. I will never forget it. I don't even need to write it on my arm. If I get arrested, I know who to call. Thank you for sending out your legal observers to all our events. Thank you for collecting evidence on NYPD transgressions of the law. Thank you for defending what now must amount to thousands of protestors who have been arrested on trumped up charges. And thank you to the New York Civil Liberties Union who have also sent legal observers, and who are helping with some major court cases right now against the city and the NYPD.

I am thankful to Medical for having bottles of that liquid, whatever it is, that you will throw in my face if I get hit with pepper-spray. If an 84-year-old woman can handle it, then I can.

I am thankful to the tens of thousands who came out on Nov. 17. I am thankful to those who engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience outside the New York Stock Exchange. I am thankful to the thousands of students who went on strike and gathered at Union Square. November 17 was so beautiful. I will never forget that day. 30,000 people. 300 arrests. We nearly shut down the New York Stock Exchange. The New School was occupied. Foley Square was a dance party! It was amazing.


Video of civil disobedience and mass arrests on Pine Street, one block north of the Stock Exchange, 9am, Nov. 17.


2,000 striking students take over Fifth Avenue on a long and winding march to Foley Square, 4pm, Nov. 17.

I am also thankful to the students. For my students, for challenging me to make the past relevant. To my graduate student colleagues, for supporting the movement in your own special ways. To the students at UC Berkeley, who courageously occupied a space on campus only to face batons and arrests from the police. I also thank the faculty who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the students, some of whom also got beaten.

To the students at UC Davis, at least ten of whom were pepper-sprayed at close range for engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience. You are courage embodied. You have inspired a generation to put down their books and take to the streets. Across the UC system, I thank the students and faculty who have kept up the fight against tuition increases and privatization. We face the same issues here at SUNY, and we can, and will, learn a lot from you all.

To Students United for a Free CUNY, thank you for marching and rallying for a return to the days (from 1847 to 1975) when CUNY was free and open to all New York youth. You are right that tuition increases will make CUNY inaccessible for the most disadvantaged students and families in the city, who also happen to be overwhelmingly people of color. Thank you for bringing your voices to the public hearing on Nov. 21. Even though you were literally beaten away by the police, and 15 of you were arrested, the whole world was inspired. Next time, we will march with you in the thousands.

And finally, thank you to Tunisia. Egypt. Yemen. Syria. Libya. You have inspired us all. There would be no American Autumn if it were not for the Arab Spring. This might be the topic of a future post, so I will leave it at that. But I want to particularly thank the revolutionary youth of Egypt. You are our direct model and inspiration. And as I write, you are continuing your fight for freedom and democracy in Tahrir Square. We support you. And thank you for supporting us.

So, in summary...

I am thankful for my family, for my friends, for the new friends I have made at OWS, for the students, and for everyone involved in this fight. We have accomplished much in these past two months, but there is still a long and difficult road ahead of us.

It is vital to remember that our greatest asset is each other. So this Thanksgiving, reach out to those around you - those who support OWS, and those who don't - and have "courageous conversations" about whatever it is that matters to you. And give thanks. Give thanks to your family for letting you join this movement. Give thanks to your friends, for having your back. Give thanks to each other, for it is only collectively, not individually, that we have achieved this much. And it will be collectively, not individually, that we will eventually win.


This is my new favorite video of the moment! It is the best introduction to what we have suffered these past two weeks.

From Occupied Wall Street to the world, thank you!!! And Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

On Language Study

"The kingdoms, states, and empires that became involved in Atlantic exchanges together contained thousands of different languages (two thousand in the Americas alone, with considerably less variation in those European and African states oriented toward the Atlantic)."

- Alison Games, "Atlantic History: Definitions, Challenges, and Opportunities," AHR 111.3 (June 2006): 741-757.

I remember reading this passage for the first time, and thinking to myself: "Anything short of learning and utilizing the thousands of languages of the Atlantic World would be to commit historiographical injustice against the 'lesser' peoples of that world."

I fashion myself as a Pacific historian. In my view, the Pacific World has no more linguistic homogeneity than the Atlantic. I have no ready figure, as Alison Games does, for how many hundreds or thousands of indigenous languages exist, or have existed, along the Pacific Rim and among the thousands of Pacific Islands. The answer is probably just as intimidating as Games' statement that the Americas alone contain two thousand indigenous languages.

Now if we could step back in time one or two generations, before ethnohistory, before subaltern studies, before the new social history, who among us historians would have even acknowledged that these languages existed, or mattered? One thing I've learned in my orals prep this semester is that in the American historiography of China, for example, you could get away with writing Chinese history without using Chinese-language sources up until the 1980s! We used to have such faith in the English-language documentarians of the past; we thought that it was okay to interpret world history solely from their perspectives, Eurocentric, Orientalist, and all.

Skip to the historiography of Hawaiʻi, where use of Hawaiian-language materials has only become "necessary" since the 1990s. True, some historians - including many Native Hawaiian historians - never stopped using Hawaiian-language materials to research and tell moʻolelo (stories; histories), even through those dark ages of the territorial (1898-1959) and statehood (1959-present) periods under U.S. colonialism. But now, most historians of Hawaiʻi, I think, consider it a historiographical injustice to research Hawaiian moʻolelo without using the ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (the Hawaiian language) to guide his or her research.

Step back in time two generations ago, maybe even just one generation ago, and if I had entered a doctoral program to study U.S. history, as I nominally did here at Stony Brook in 2009, I would have been expected to use mostly English-language materials in my research. And I probably would be expected to learn French and German, too. Because many of the classic works in the Western social sciences were written in French and German. The French would also be useful for studying colonial American history, I admit. Today, no one requires me, or even suggests to me, to read Ranke or Marx or any other Western theorist in any language other than in English translation. Indeed, as the Eurocentric biases of these founding fathers of Western social theory are uncovered and criticized, we are realizing that the whole foundation of Western social theory is only so useful in making sense of Chinese history or Hawaiian history, for example. (On this point, I suggest reading Andre Frank's ReOrient. It really opened my eyes on this issue.)

So where does this leave us? Let us examine these relationships between language study and doing history further. We may do so by taking on as a case study my own nascent experiences in developing competency in the languages of the Pacific World.

Languages of the Pacific World: Chinese

Excerpt from a memorial from the Zongli Yamen (總理衙門)
concerning the Tianjin Massacre (1870)

I started studying Chinese in 2003 while in college. The whole endeavor was inspired by some rather weird twists and turns in my life, in my ideology, and in my imagination. In 2001 and 2002 while living in Southern California I was exposed almost simultaneously to Taoism (道教) and to macrobiotics. Macrobiotics led me to a study of Zen Buddhism, which lasted for a while. But Taoism only led me deeper to Taoism. I remember that I first tried to teach myself Chinese language by checking out a bilingual version of the Dao de jing (道德经), the most important Taoist text, from my school's library. I compared the English to the strange Chinese characters next to it, and I looked for patterns. Let me say, that was not a good way to learn Chinese! I got nowhere!

The next few years brought me closer to something approximating true language study. I took Mandarin classes in college. I studied for one semester at Yunnan Normal University (云南师范大学) in Kunming, China. In my senior thesis on the ethnomusicology of Yi music in southwest China, I even used Chinese-language sources for reference.

Fast forward to 2009 as I entered Stony Brook nominally to study U.S. environmental history. But I could not pass up the opportunity to study for the first time in my life Chinese history. I had studied language and culture and music for six years on and off, but I had never taken a class in Chinese history. True, abroad in Yunnan, we studied twentieth-century history, and I learned about communism, but I did not yet know my Qin (秦) from my Qing (清), or my Tang (唐) from my Song (宋) from my Ming (明)! (I hope I got all those characters right!) :)

Fast forward to the fall of 2011, at present, and I have begun studying Classical Chinese for the first time. The term "classical" is debatable here. What I mean to say is that I am studying pre-vernacular Chinese: pre-Lu Xun; pre-twentieth century.

I had never tried to read a historic Chinese-language document before. That was, until I read the memorial reproduced above. Reproduced is an excerpt from a memorial sent from the Zongli Yamen to the Qing emperor. "Memorial" refers to a document that was used in official communication between the emperor in Beijing and all his advisors as well as men out in the field such as governor-generals, etc. I don't yet fully understand the complex bureaucracy of Qing dynasty communications. All I know is that the Qing had expanded the bounds of "China" to its greatest extent ever by the end of the eighteenth century, and so when this memorial was written, it was part of a huge imperial communications apparatus that stretched thousands of miles across the varied climes of "China." This was before email and the internet (you knew that, right?), and yet somehow the emperor always stayed on top of his imperial news - like the Tianjin Massacre, for example - through the regular memorials he received. And he dispensed instructions back out through memorials. Or something like that!

This particular memorial is pretty much a big summary of what a number of different people have said about the Tianjin Massacre. It is almost legalistic in its organization, with the memorialist saying first that X said this, and then Y said that, therefore the next thing to do should be Z. But of course, whatever the emperor says to do, do it! It begins:

Prince Gong memorializes that, according to Jiangsu Province governor Ding Richang, who memorialized that...

See how we are already in a memorial within a memorial within a memorial? :)

Well, Ding Richang basically says that those government officials and common people who acted out in Tianjin had good cause because the foreign Christian missionary presence there was becoming a major headache. Then the memorial offers the emperor's statement, something to the effect of, these are the facts now, so...

Let the Yamen discuss and memorialize.

More memorializing! One interesting thing to note here is that when the emperor is first mentioned, he is placed symbolically above all other matters. This is why in the original document shown above you see in the fourth column from the right (classical Chinese is read form right to left, from top to bottom) that the character zhi (旨) is placed up high above all the others columns. It is part of the phrase fengzhi (奉旨), meaning "by order of the emperor." You can see it happens again two columns later as well.

So even if you do not read Chinese, you can still learn something from the original document above. You can see how in official imperial correspondence the emperor is symbolically placed above all others. It is often said that a Chinese emperor ruled over "all under heaven" (天下). And in a Qing dynasty memorial, all words under heaven were placed beneath the emperor, too. You perhaps have heard of how visitors were required to kowtow (叩头) before the emperor, that is, to bow down. Well, you can imagine all the meager words in the memorial kowtowing to the emperor in a similar way.

Perhaps the other curious thing about the document above are the many open circles. Those are the equivalent of periods in Chinese; they mark the end of sentences.

Languages of the Pacific World: Hawaiian

Nupepa Kuokoa, Vol. 5, No. 27, July 7, 1866, page 1 (published in Honolulu)

I first began researching Hawaiian history after an initial trip to Hawaiʻi in January 2010, almost two years ago. That trip convinced me that there were a lot of moʻolelo (stories) about Hawaiian history that were simply not being told on the mainland. I have become convinced that most Americans believe Hawaiian history began in 1893 or maybe 1898, or maybe even 1959(!), but few Americans know much about nineteenth-century Hawaiʻi.

By the fall of 2010 I had already written my now-published article, "Boki's Predicament" about the Hawaiian sandalwood industry in the 1810s and 1820s. I did not consult or use any Hawaiian-language materials for that study. But then, out of the blue, a reader of this blog from Hawaiʻi contacted me with more information about ʻiliahi (Hawaiian sandalwood). When our conversation turned to my more recent project, on Hawaiian migrant labor in the American guano industry, he pointed me to a website where I could find more information. When I went to that website, I discovered that the text was all in Hawaiian! Bummer. I tried the old "comparing Hawaiian and English translations side-by-side" thing that I had done with the Dao de jing a decade ago, but of course that did not work! I wish language study was that easy!

It was not initially clear how much material existed in the Hawaiian language on the guano industry. But once I found a website called nupepa.org (an online database of digitized Hawaiian-language newspapers from the nineteenth century), and I typed "guano" into the search engine, scores of entries appeared! And later when I discovered other ways of saying "guano" in Hawaiian, hundreds of entries appeared. It was then that I realized that it would be a historiographical injustice if I continued to write my article on Hawaiian guano workers without consulting the Hawaiian-language archives. And so I found a Hawaiian language teacher in Harlem, and the rest, as they say, is history!

So what can we learn from Hawaiian language documents? Take the newspaper above: Ka Nupepa Kuokoa: The Independent Newspaper. It was called the "independent" newspaper because it was not affiliated with, or sponsored by, the Hawaiian Kingdom. According to historian Noenoe Silva, another newspaper that I frequently reference, Ka Hae Hawaii (The Hawaiian Flag), was indeed sponsored by the Hawaiian Kingdom. Ka Hae Hawaii ran from 1856 to the early 1860s, and then Nupepa Kuokoa took over and stayed in print, I believe, well into the territorial period (1898-1959). Silva is critical of both of these newspapers. Of Ka Hae Hawaii, edited by Christian missionaries, she says it "primarily engaged in civilizing discourse by urging Kānaka Maoli [Native Hawaiians] to work, by denigrating them and other native peoples, and by attempting to domesticate Kanaka women." Of Nupepa Kuokoa, she says the editor's goal was to "replace Kanaka identity, traditions, and the like with foreign (haole) ways and thoughts."

Silva is right to critically read between the lines and identify the haole and missionary discourses that permeate these papers. But I read the newspapers differently. I am most interested in the letters submitted to the editor. The newspapers frequently published letters written by Hawaiian men (and less frequently women) from all walks of life, reporting on conditions of life and labor from all across the Pacific World. In my work on guano, I relied almost exclusively on the writings of Hawaiian laborers thousands of miles from Hawaiʻi on guano islands writing about the conditions they experienced. In my newest project on Hawaiians in California, I have found many sad letters from Hawaiians who have outlasted the Gold Rush and are too embarrassed to return to Hawaiʻi nei from California without the riches their families expect them to return with. These letters highlight the "public sphere" of these newspapers. The letters demonstrate not only that Hawaiians in Hawaiʻi were aware of the activities of the larger diaspora across the Pacific World, but also that Hawaiians across the diaspora were reading the same news as their ʻohana (families) back in Hawaiʻi. This process of reading and writing could easily have lead to what Benedict Anderson calls the formation of an"imagined community," the nation. Whether or not the development of a lāhui Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian nation) originated in part from this diasporic community of newspaper reading is a major research question that still deserves much attention in Hawaiian history.

Unfortunately, I have yet to visit the archives in Hawaiʻi and actually see these newspapers. Based on the scans (like the one above), these newspapers appear to have often been four pages long, and they look like four big pages! Some newspapers mixed Hawaiian and English reporting, as you can see in the document above where in the first column at left the newspaper advertises itself first in Hawaiian and then in English.

Below those initial self-promotions, still in the far left column, there are listed the moku (ships). At first glance, it is not clear what services these ships are providing. Many are kuna (schooners), and some are kalepa (trading/merchant) ships.

Below that are olelo hoolaha (advertisements, or notices). The first one is for the Ahahui Hooholo Mokuahi, the Society for Riding (or Operating?) Steamships(?). Not sure what that is all about. Mokuahi is an interesting compound word: Moku is "ship" and ahi is "fire," thus "fireship" or steamship. Below are listed a number of ships, so probably this ahahui is advertising some of the finest new steamships...but I'd have to look more carefully to really find out what is being advertised here.

Below that is an advertisement for buke (books) for sale. At passing glance I would say these may be the sort of books Christian missionaries would like Hawaiians to read. Prices are given, but I have no idea how these costs compare to daily wages for a Hawaiian makaʻāinana (commoner) in the 1860s. Something to look into.

Now, if you look at the second column from the left, at top begins the real news. And the news on this day is quite somber: Na Hana ma Hale Alii Iolani, no ka Hoolewa ana of Ke Kama Aliiwahine Victoria K. Kaahumanu. The royal princess Victoria Kaahumanu has died, and this particular article concerns the work at Iolani Palace for her funeral(?). Great article for a political historian.

I see the word kanikau come up a lot. It means "song of lamentation" or "song of mourning." Perhaps this piece describes the funeral itself, the words that were spoken, and the mele (songs) that were sung. I have not read it carefully.

The final column at right deals with ahaolelo (legislative) matters. Hawaiʻi became a constitutional monarchy in 1840, and legislation thereafter became the domain of legislators, no longer the domain of the aliʻi, the traditional chiefs, although there was some overlap for a time.

But none of this is what interests me. Flip to page two of this issue of Nupepa Kuokoa and you get to the section on hunahuna mea hou, literally "bits [or scraps] of news." These are just two or three sentences per hunahuna (scrap), saying this happened, or that happened, and so-and-so is here or there doing this or that.

Page 2

Top of page three: ka nu hou hope loa, "the very last news," signaling to readers that the "news" portion is now finally ending? The second column is the "English column": only one column of about 20 in this entire issue of Nupepa Kuokoa. Who read this English column? Who would read it rather than read Hawaiʻi's totally English-language newspaper, the Pacific Commercial Advertiser?

Page 3

Then you have the nu hou o na aina e mai, "news from the foreign lands." As follows, there are news summaries for: Na Feniana (it took a while to figure this out, but it is a reference to the Fenian movement); then Ma ka Ahaolelo Amerika ("in the American Congress" - this was 1866 just after the end of the Civil War and I see Jefferson Davis is mentioned in the article. Interesting); and then No Europa (Europe).

Then finally at the bottom of column 3 on page 3 we get to Na Palapala (Letters). This is where the letters to the editor are printed. And the first letter is from J.M. Kailiopio, a writer from Baker's Island in the equatorial Pacific. His letter, titled "Moolelo o ka Mokupuni Baker's Is. Puakailima" (Story/History of the Island Puakailima [or Baker's Island]) details his experiences as a guano laborer on a tiny island thousands of miles from Hawaiʻi.

Kailiopio describes the size of the island, and what is looks like. He describes some of the biological, geological, and oceanographic features of the place. He mentions how the Hawaiian workers collected cowry shells in their spare time to sell to the resident haole (their overseers) in exchange for work clothes, tobacco, tobacco pipes, matches, and other little things. He describes how little plant life there is on the island because the bird poop is so overpowering it kills the plants. He describes the seabirds, and how in lean times the workers rely on the birds and their eggs as a source of food. And he ends with a very strong critique of the Hawaiian laborers' working conditions on the island. When they get sick, he says, the luna (overseer) just gives them castor oil, salt, and painkillers, and then sends them back to work. The luna keeps changing the rules as he sees fit, he says. Kailiopio also says that many of the Hawaiian workers' bodies have become weak, and some have even died on the island.

In conclusion, for all that these Hawaiian-language newspapers are not - as much as Silva is right that they did not represent the true voices of the Kānaka Maoli, the native people - there are still these fascinating letters to the editor. Kailiopio's letter is exceptionally interesting, moving, and significant for historians. But all the letters have something to say, and they give "voice" to the subalterns who previously were voiceless in Hawaiian history.

Languages of the Pacific World: Spanish

In January 2012, I will begin taking Spanish lessons. It is partly because my lovely fiancee and I are planning a trip to South America, and as of now I know no Spanish! But it is also because as I pursue my newest project on Hawaiians in California, I am realizing how important the Spanish language is to understanding Alta California in the pre-U.S. days of the early nineteenth century. I presented a paper last spring at a Latin American history conference on "Polynesian Explorers in Latin America," but that was more of a research proposal than a discussion of any research findings. I have not yet looked for Hawaiians in the Spanish-language archives, but there is enough evidence to suggest that Native Hawaiian laborers were extremely important actors in the economy of the Alta California coast in the early nineteenth century. And so starting this spring I will bring in Spanish as my third language of the Pacific World.

And so on?

Chinese. Hawaiian. Spanish. There are so many other languages to know. Alison Games would say there are thousands of languages to learn here. From Hawaiian one could naturally progress to studying Māori, or Tahitian, or Samoan, or Tongan, or Rapanui. From Chinese, next would certainly be Japanese. From Spanish, it wouldn't be too hard to add French (certainly useful for studying French Polynesia). One language seriously missing here is Russian. Indeed, Russian is probably next on my dream list of languages to learn for the Pacific World. Because if you want to understand Alaska before it was American, you need to know Russian. Of course, Imperial Russia simply took over other people's lands in the Pacific World, so perhaps it would be just as important to study Aleut, or perhaps I should ask my Siberian friend to teach me Yakut, her native language. Ditto for Spanish California: why not learn Chumash? And even in considering China, why not study the indigenous languages of Taiwan, and the many languages of the ethnic minorities of the South China coast?

Generations ago, few people questioned that history was written by and for the victors. In an imperial world, where a handful of North Atlantic superpowers controlled much of the Southern hemisphere through colonialism, few historians thought there was any history worth telling besides the history of the conquerors. Imperial historians went out to the peripheries and collected and co-opted indigenous stories. Through Orientalism, these historians made up a heck of a lot of stories about these "others," too. And so the many, many histories (most of them orally transmitted) of the world were synthesized into a single meta-narrative, that of the clash between civilization (white folks) and savagery (everyone else), where 99% of the world was classified, of course, as the latter. They were, as Eric Wolf has termed them, "the people without history."

But through language study, we can rediscover the long-lost words of the "others." In fact, we are responsible, as historians, to find these words and give them a critical rehearing. This is a simple matter of historiographical justice. That these documents exist demands us to learn as many languages as possible so that we can really hear what the past is telling us.

Now who wants to join me? What languages should we learn?