Monday, July 29, 2013

California Research Adventure: Day 27

Day 27: Adventures in Pasadena

Day 27 was not so much a research adventure as an adventure of the human body. I woke up feeling extremely tired—due to my Channel Islands adventure the day before—and while I tried to motivate myself to either take a bus to Griffith Park in L.A., or take a bus up to the base of the San Gabriel Mountains and go for a hike, I just couldn't motivate myself to do either. I didn't want to get on any damned bus...or train...or boat. I just wanted one day to relax in sunny Pasadena.

So after a late breakfast (8 A.M.) and a few hours of dissertation editing in my sunny hotel room, I decided that I would walk towards downtown Pasadena to visit the Pacific Asia Museum and find myself some lunch.

Exterior of the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena. The building is from the 1920s and features an Orientalist style.

I was very happy with my visit to the museum. It is small, and in the midst of major renovations, but there was still a lot of good material to see there.

The museum seeks to showcase the art and culture of not just Asia but "Pacific Asia." As the name suggests, the museums' collections encompass objects from throughout all of Asia but also from the Pacific Islands (but seemingly not Australia, so not "Oceania." And there was nothing from western Asia either...so we need to keep in mind that there is a particular iteration of "Pacific Asia" that is being presented here). 

A map of "Pacific Asia," at the Pacific Asia Museum

I can't recall ever visiting a gallery that sought to include Pacific Islands arts and culture in with that of East Asia. It is not unusual to throw Island Southeast Asia in with the greater Pacific, or to throw Melanesia in with Southeast Asia, but the geography presented at the Pacific Asia Museum is, I think, unique. I enjoyed it and I think that on a general level the "Pacific Asia" conception works.

The introductory gallery of the museum ended up being the best one. It is newer, and follows the museum's recent initiative to break down the "civilization"-based galleries (China vs. Japan vs. Korea vs. Pacific Islands, etc.) and instead focus on themes and media that cut across geographical areas. So in the introductory gallery, for example, there was a case of materials made of jade, another case with metals, and then another case of art objects made of ivory. The objects themselves were from all over the "Pacific Asia" region.

A selection of ivory objects at the Pacific Asia Museum. Note at far right the lei niho palaoa (necklace made of human hair and sperm whale tooth) from Hawaiʻi. It was the only Hawaiian object on exhibit at the museum.

The introductory gallery gave me hope that there would be more "Pacific" in the museum than I expected. But the remaining galleries letdown in that regard. Where there were Pacific Islands objects, they were almost all from Papua New Guinea, as is the standard treatment in most American museums.

The "Pacific Islands" room.... although, in actuality, it's just a Papua New Guinea room. (See the map on the wall.) This is obviously a room just waiting for renovation. I would be excited to return a decade from now and see how they have changed their Pacific Islands interpretation.

So that was my visit to the Pacific Asia Museum. It was about 1 P.M. and I was very hungry. My goal was to walk to a place called Burger Continental. It came highly recommended from my California guidebook, and I had heard that this establishment has great falafel and hummus—perhaps my two favorite foods! Unfortunately, as I should have known—indeed, I had been warning myself about this ever since arriving in California—there is no place in the world like the street corners of New York City for getting really good falafel. I have been to three continents (four if you include Oceania), and I have tried lots of falafel. But nothing beats the halal street vendors and hole-in-the-wall shops in our part of Manhattan. (Although I have never been to the Mediterranean region, so...) As for hummus, I'm not sure where I've had the best hummus ever... probably also New York.

And so it was off to Burger Continental. When I walked in, all hot and sweaty as I was, I could immediately tell that this was going to be a great experience. There were buffet bars as far as the eye could see, including a salad bar with unlimited hummus. (Oh boy...)

I had the option of the all-you-can-eat brunch, or ordering off the menu, and I think I made a very wise decision to order off the menu, because I knew that I would not be able to control myself if I was allowed to eat as much as possible. (Part of the problem here is that I am very miserly and the all-you-can-eat special was $19, so I would be very anxious to make sure that I was eating at least $19 worth of food.) So I ordered a $6 falafel sandwich off the menu. That sandwich came with access to the unlimited salad bar, however, so... (Oh boy...)

I went to the salad bar and filled up my plate as high as I could. (I could not stop myself!) Lettuce, tahini sauce, tabouli, roasted eggplant, a few big globs of hummus, olives, et cetera. Then I sat back down, and I ordered a lemonade to wash it all down. Here is a photograph of what my table looked like at that point, with my copy of L.A. Weekly in there, too:
Just part of my lunch at Burger Continental

Okay. So I started nibbling away at this, reading my newspaper. Then a guy started playing music on an electric keyboard and I swayed in my seat to the music. Mmmm... this hummus is so good. Slirrppp... so is the lemonade. Love this music. There were a few women sitting nearby, laughing and swaying in their seats, too. Those who partook in the all-you-can-eat brunch special had the option of drinking unlimited champagne. Perhaps these women were enjoying that. I couldn't tell, all I know is I remember them lifting their glasses and nodding their heads at me, as if to say: "This is the life."

Then they brought out my falafel sandwich, which itself came with a heaping side of rice pilaf and carrot salad:

My ever-expanding lunch (offstage: my soon-to-be expanding stomach)

At this point I was thinking: well, I avoided the all-you-can-eat brunch but I still ended up with so much food! What am I to do?

Eat, of course! So I ate and ate and ate. I finished my lemonade. The waitress came by and asked if I wanted another. I said "no, just some more water," and then she brought over another huge lemonade. (Oh boy...)

I don't have photographs of what happened next. But there was this moment when the music stopped, a belly-dancer appeared, and my stomach suddenly started to feel like a ticking time bomb. My forehead broke into a sweat. I unbuttoned the top button of my shorts. No relief. Now I was really sweating. What was happening?

I stood up and walked nonchalantly over to the restroom. I won't give all the gory details here, but as I was crouched on the floor, gasping for oxygen amid the hot, smelly bathroom air, my mind drifted back to this one night in Puno, Peru—or was it in Arequipa?—when my stomach was going through an ordeal and after a great meal I found myself in a small, cramped bathroom, just waiting and waiting to see what my body would do. It is an intensely human feeling, this, to be beholden to one's stomach. Crouched over the toilet then and there, I also flashed back to this one night that was definitely in Arequipa when my stomach bug was just getting a hold of me, and remembering the long walk back to our hostel, feeling with each step on the sidewalk that the contents of my stomach were about to be propelled out of my mouth if only I took one wrong step and everything came tumbling out.

It's funny, though. After some bodily catharsis, I emerged out of the bathroom feeling 50 percent better. I washed the sweat off my brow, and I walked back out to witness the end of the belly-dancing show. But my stomach still did not feel right. As I rushed my way out the door, leaving some cash next to my hummus-stained dishes, I soon found myself out on the sunny Pasadena streets, feeling extremely unable to move my body in any direction. With every tree and patch of grass that I passed, I felt tempted to just lay down in the shade for a small moment, but then my mind flashed back to that day in rural Yunnan Province, China, in the year 2004 when a horrible stomach bug attacked me during a hike through the countryside. I found a tree underneath which to rest, but then I discovered that my body urgently wanted to do more than just rest, so, attempting to conceal myself from the rural farmers around me, I then and there let out all my humanness in a very naked way, connecting my body with the Chinese soil.

I refused to stop walking. I had to march on. I couldn't button up my shorts, though, and the sagging of my pants made it incredibly hard to walk. I had to sort of waddle down the sidewalk, keeping my legs just enough apart to keep the shorts above my waist. Of course my mind also flashed back to that night in Washington, D.C., when, for the first time I had the experience of "not being able to move my stomach": that is, I felt so nauseous that I had to walk in such a manner that my stomach would not move. This feeling engenders a very strange kind of dance: one's legs do all the work, carefully making each stride and each step in such a way so that the upper-half of the body remains completely stationary in place. Now you can imagine me walking down the sidewalk in Pasadena yesterday with my torso facing straight ahead at all times, with my legs waddling back and forth with my shorts slipping down around my waist—and imagine me doing that for thirty straight minutes, covering almost two miles of the city—that was Day 27. :)

Back at the hotel, I crawled into bed and watched trashy movies on the television. As night fell, I was able to look back upon this day and consider it a real success. I visited a great museum and I had a really great lunch. Yes, after lunch I had a horrible adventure, but it was all worth it. And, because I ordered off of the menu rather than the all-you-can-eat buffet, the whole meal—and the whole adventure that followed—cost just nine dollars!

Next up: Days 28, 29, 30, 31, and 32 will find me back at the Huntington Library for a third week of research. Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

California Research Adventure: Day 26

Day 26: Ventura County & Channel Islands

Well, this, at the midpoint of my California adventure, was surely the highlight of my trip. Ventura is a beautiful, coastal town north of Los Angeles, and the Channel Islands just took my breath away. What a day!

The Channel Islands, view from a ship

My journey began early in the morning. I woke up at 5:45 A.M., grabbed breakfast at my hotel and hit the road a little after 6:15 A.M. I walked to my local Metro stop and boarded a train to downtown L.A. I arrived at Los Angeles Union Station around 7:20 A.M. From there I boarded an Amtrak train northbound along the Pacific coast to Ventura County.

A little after 9:30 A.M. we pulled into Ventura station. I say Ventura, but the historic name of this town is San Buenaventura; at some point they shortened it to Ventura...although City Hall still has the name Buenaventura emblazoned upon the building's facade.

My first stop was just a few blocks north of the train station, which itself is just a few blocks north of the coast. I visited the Mission San Buenaventura, one of the oldest Catholic missions in all of California.

The Mission San Buenaventura, established in 1782

Surprisingly, given how important the missions are to California history, I believe this was the first time I had visited a Spanish mission in California. It may also be the oldest building that I have visited in California (as you'll remember from earlier in my trip that the buildings I visited in downtown L.A. date only to the 1810s). This building, however, is not from 1782. Although the mission was founded at that time, several buildings have come and gone. This one was started in the 1790s, I think, but was not completed until after the turn of the nineteenth century. 

Diorama of the mission as it was in Spanish times, at the Museum of Mission San Buenaventura

The tour of the mission is self-guided, and the mission museum provides the visitor with very little information to guide with. This was very much unlike some of the cathedrals we visited in Peru last summer where they had amazing audio-guides. I was glad to have visited Peru, however, for what I learned there about Spanish colonialism perhaps helped me understand a little bit better what was going on at these missions in late eighteenth-century California.

Church interior, Mission San Buenaventura

A shrine inside the church at Mission San Buenaventura

The main altar of the church at Mission San Buenaventura

Another shrine in the church at Mission San Buenaventura

I did not spend more than thirty minutes at the mission. There were a few interpretive panels there explaining the lives and labors of Chumash Indians, the primary people preached to by the Spanish priests. Chumash were rounded up and forced to live in and around the mission—thousands were rounded up and removed from the Channel Islands in the nineteenth century, too. At the mission many of them worked in cattle ranching and hide and tallow processing. This is important because it was hides and tallow that beckoned American ships to visit ports like San Buenaventura in the early nineteenth century. And, it was on ships such as those American ships that Hawaiian migrant workers made their way to Spanish / Mexican California.

Before this recent trip to California, I already knew that there were some Hawaiians living and working in nearby Santa Barbara in the Mexican period (1820s-1840s), but I had not heard of any Buenaventura connection. But then, at the Huntington Library just last week, I uncovered a manuscript that detailed the experiences of an American ship along the Spanish California coast in the first decade of the nineteenth century. There were Hawaiian seamen aboard that ship, and in one instance upon docking at San Buenaventura, the Hawaiian men were said to have deserted ship and ran for the hills above town. So of course I took a photograph of the hills just above the mission so that we can all imagine what it that was like for those Hawaiian deserters in Spanish Alta California!

The hills above San Buenaventura, where Hawaiian seamen took refuge over two hundred years ago...

A few final photographs from the mission:

In the mission courtyard, a statue of Junipero Serra, the man who brought Catholicism to California in the eighteenth century

Behind the mission, a statue of Kateri Tekakwitha, a native of my own homeland (sort of)—the Mohawk River Valley of New York where I grew up. How strange to find Kateri here, in Ventura County, California, when so many times I have walked the woods where she once walked in upstate New York. This just shows the globality of Catholicism, I guess: from Mohawks to the Chumash, the missionaries left no stone unturned.

Well, my next goal was to find the local post office to send someone a postcard... but on the way I serendipitously wandered through a farmers' market...

Farmers' Market, San Buenaventura, California

Oh, just a beautiful 1930s WPA mural inside the Ventura Post Office!

After the post office, it was time for lunch. I visited Mary's Secret Garden, an all-vegan restaurant recommended by my California guidebook. It did not disappoint! I had an amazing corn tortilla soup and then a huge salad with big chunks of fresh avocado and pieces of mock chicken. It was a perfect lunch!

You know you're in a vegan restaurant when the interior of the bathroom looks like this. :)

Next stop: Ventura Harbor. But the harbor is a few miles from downtown, so I was a little worried about how I was going to get there. Thankfully, I discovered that the City of San Buenaventura has a free trolley service to and from the harbor. Perfect. So I jumped on the trolley and got to the harbor around 12:30 P.M.

View of Ventura Harbor

It was a beautiful afternoon. I still had a little over an hour before my cruise to the Channel Islands, so I walked down the harbor road a bit more to the Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center (which is actually here, at Ventura Harbor on the mainland, rather than out on the islands). I watched a film about the islands narrated by Kevin Costner. Saw a few exhibits. Bought a postcard. Then wandered back to Island Packers, the company that was going to ship me out to the islands, over ten miles offshore.

Our ship headed out at 2 P.M. As we left the harbor, we got to say "hello" to the hundreds of California brown pelicans that call the harbor home. The smell of guano wafted into my nose on the breeze, and the noise of the birds was overwhelming. We saw some Peruvian pelicans last summer, but I've never seen so many pelicans all together like this before. Between the harbor and the Channel Islands, we must have seen thousands of them.

Hundreds of California brown pelicans, Ventura Harbor
Another view of the brown pelican resting place at Ventura Harbor. All that whiteness on the rocks: that's guano.

As we left the harbor, we started to see other wildlife, such as these California sea lions all hanging out on a buoy:
California sea lions on a buoy off of San Buenaventura, California

We chugged along towards Anacapa Island, the closest of the Channel Islands to the mainland. Then, we were there!
Off of Anacapa Island, Channel Islands National Park

During our journey from mainland to islands, I couldn't help but think how much water there is here! And of course I was only seeing such a small fraction of the Pacific Ocean. As we traveled along the surface of the waves, I imagined the land beneath us, hundreds of feet down. So much of the Earth is just drowned with saltwater. But we almost never think of it. Billions of gallons of saltwater just sit on top of 70% of our planet's land. That is so much water! It is incredible and impossible to fathom.

And we are such landlubbers. Centuries ago many of us would have known what it was like to travel across the ocean, to feel seasickness (and to overcome it), to know life on board a boat day after day, week after week, sometimes year after year. Now how many humans today still experience the ocean is that way?

Anacapa is a really beautiful island. Here are some more photographs:

Historic lighthouse atop Anacapa Island, Channel Islands National Park
 
Parts of Anacapa Island, which is in actuality many small islands put together (but it's all connected underneath the waves, of course. And in fact, all the Channel Islands are part of one big mountain ridge beneath the water's surface).

The lighthouse atop hundreds of feet of rock and lots and lots of bird guano!

Anacapa Island, in pieces

Anacapa Island, in pieces

We rounded Anacapa Island to visit the marine life on the backside of the island—that is, the ocean-facing side. Here is where we found countless rookeries of large (and loud) harbor seals.
A harbor seal rookery on the ocean-facing side of Anacapa Island

Another harbor seal rookery on the ocean-facing side of Anacapa Island. Good thing I brought my binoculars!

Seeing the thousands of harbor seals resting on these protected beaches made me strangely enough think more about the human past. There is evidence of human habitation in the Channel Islands going back at least 13,000 years. The Chumash people called these islands home for thousands of years, all the way until the early nineteenth century when they were forced off. I want to think that the harbor seals, the brown pelicans, the sea lions, and the Chumash all lived in harmony. But I don't know the evidence well enough to say that—and historians don't find it very fashionable today to talk about "ecological Indians." We do know that on the mainland of North America, indigenous peoples sometimes conserved nature and sometimes destroyed it. There is no denying that many creatures that once lived in the Americas were made extinct by the humans that arrived ten to fifteen thousand years ago. (Similarly, in Hawaiʻi we know of countless species that were wiped off the face of the Earth by the earliest Polynesian colonists.) To say this is not to indict our ancestors—especially indigenous people's ancestors. Things happen, and most extinctions in human history were effected without any real knowledge of what was taking place. Anyway, the point is that, as far as I learned in my visit to the Channel Islands, there wasn't a mass extinction here when the Chumash's ancestors arrived. At least the iconic species seen today—the seals and sea lions, pelicans and cormorants and oyster-catchers—they seemed to survive ten thousand years of co-habitation with Amerindians just fine, at least much better than they survived just two centuries (19th and 20th) of co-habitation with Euro-Americans, who slaughtered and skinned them and destroyed their habitats in a fit of wild capitalism.

But all this is to say that Channel Islands National Park, like most national parks, does not really show "California as it once was" (as Kevin Costner tells us in the National Park Service video). No, "California as it once was" had more than just seals and sea lions here: it also had people. Unless Channel Islands National Park wants us to see "California as it once was fifteen thousand years ago before there were any humans here" than they are not really "preserving" the islands in their "natural" state. Because people are part of nature, too; their removal from these islands was a historical wrong, and to allow the Chumash to return to these islands, in my opinion, would be a good thing. If they lived with seals and sea lions and pelicans for over ten thousand years on these islands, who are we to say that they must stop doing that today?

Instead, people who live in this part of the Pacific Ocean live on structures like this one:

An oil rig in Santa Barbara Channel off of California. The structure reaches down over seven hundred feet below the surface of the ocean, and protudes a few hundred feet above the ocean. For people who live and work on this rig, it is like living and working on the top floor of the Empire State Building—that's how tall the structure is—except that most of the building has been flooded by the ocean. 

Off course this place was the site of one of the worst oil spills in American history. The spill here in 1969—the worst ever except for the Exxon spill of 1989 and the recent BP spill in the Gulf—was, in many historians' opinions, one of the catalysts for the modern American environmental movement. And all you have to do is look back at those photographs of pelicans, sea lions, and harbor seals to imagine the devastation that humans can have on nature when we mess up.
Returning to the mainland...

It was an eye-opening excursion. I love seabirds and I love marine mammals, and it brought such joy to my heart to see them all. The trip really left me meditating on the relationships between humans and non-human animals, both historically and in our contemporary era. Lots to think about.

I came out to these islands because Hawaiian migrant workers killed sea otters along the coasts of these islands in the 1830s. This was, I think, right after the Chumash were removed to the mainland. Strange then that other "natives," as the employers sometimes called these Hawaiians, came to live on these Channel Islands for a short time in the Chumash's place. (This is, needless to say, not a story told by the National Park Service. I couldn't find anything Hawaiian related on the islands or at the visitor center. Also, I asked one of our guides whether she ever saw sea otters along the islands (which we did not), and she said "no. very, very rarely." Which made me kind of sad. At least one part of these islands' natural history has seemingly disappeared...)

That's it for Day 26. Back onshore, I grabbed dinner and a beer at a local bar near the train station, re-boarded Amtrak around 7:30 P.M., got into Los Angeles a bit before 10, and was back in my hotel in Pasadena by 11 P.M. What a day!

Next up: my trip to the Pacific Asia Museum, and a lunch that was so good it made be barf. No joke.

Friday, July 26, 2013

California Research Adventure: Days 21-25


Day 21: Back to work

Another week of research at the Huntington Library. During my lunchtime on Day 21, I visited the campus' extensive desert gardens.

Strange, beautiful plants in the Desert Garden, Huntington Library

A view of the desert garden, from a rare shady spot

Strange, beautiful plant in the desert garden, Huntington Library

 My favorite desert plant, this cactus. Just look at them cacti!

I quite enjoyed the desert garden, for of all the gardens at the Huntington it is the only one seemingly "fit" for this environment: the dry, desert landscape of Southern California. It is somewhat sad to walk the paths of this campus day in and day out and see how much water is being used to irrigate all the plants and trees that otherwise would dry up and die. Until Day 25 I never felt a single raindrop here. Yet to keep these plants alive the Huntington dumps gallons and gallons of water on these plants. So that's why I enjoyed the desert garden, because it doesn't really need irrigation. And yet, to my surprise, I saw that there were sprinklers here, too, sprinkling the cacti! Shaking my head...

Day 22: Still at work

I thought I would give you all a view of the library building itself:

The Huntington Library, with the San Gabriel Mountains in the background

On my lunchtime walk on Day 22 I decided to visit the the campus' lily ponds, which are surrounded by bamboo and by a little bit of pine forest, too, which I quite enjoyed as it reminded me a bit of my home in upstate New York.
Some kind of coniferous treesI said "pine," but I don't really know—at the Huntington Library

Some fish in the lily ponds

The lily ponds, Huntington Library

Day 22 was nice because it was a Tuesday, and on Tuesdays the Huntington grounds are closed to the public, which means that "readers" like myself have the whole campus to ourselves. I was able to find some peace and quiet, not that I needed it, though! I mean, sitting in the archives all day is irritatingly quiet. And yet at the same time, there is little that is "peaceful" about archival research; it's rather stressful, I should say. So getting outdoors for an hour each day among the plants is a good thing.

Here are a few more interesting things I saw on my walk on Day 22:

A tree with heavy limbs

Statue in a garden

Day 23: Hump-day

Wednesdays are "hump"-days because they mark the midpoint of the week. The feeling is: if I can just get through hump-day, then I'll be able to make it through Friday. For my hump-day walk, I decided to visit the Australian gardens.... Kind of like the desert gardens, but more specifically Australian than Californian.

The Australian "outback " (yeah, just "out back" of the Huntington mansion!)

A very interesting Australian tree

Of course the most famous Australian tree in California is the Eucalyptus tree. But for that, you (and I) will have to read Professor Jared Farmer's soon-to-be-published book, Trees in Paradise, which I predict will be a very good read.

Day 24: Still at it

These are quiet days here. Lonely, too. After "work" each day I generally walk back to my hotel, drink an iced tea, do a few hours of editing my dissertation, then go out and buy pizza, or tacos, or some Asian stir-fry, then sit in bed in my hotel room watching the news or documentaries while eating dinner. I don't generally talk to people at the Huntington, and I certainly don't talk to people at the hotel. My lonely, quiet life. It is bearable, but not preferable.

I have no photographs from Day 24, because instead of going for a walk during lunch I decided to attend a conversation with the authors of a new book on surfing. I figured, since I study Hawaiian history, that this might be an interesting lecture to attend. It was interesting, although a few things the authors said rubbed me the wrong way. They were very knowledgeable, and their book looks very interesting. It seems to be more of a focus on California surfing than Hawaiian, and more on the 20th century than earlier. There's nothing wrong with that. However, when one of the authors said multiple times that the reason surfing declined/disappeared in late nineteenth-century Hawaiʻi was because the Hawaiians "died out," I had to bite my tongue. I know that many of my Hawaiian history friends would have also found this offensive, as I did.

It raises an interesting historiographical point about Hawaiʻi, though, and about indigenous peoples' histories in general. It used to be believed that indigenous peoples—for example, Native Americans or Hawaiians—just "disappeared," "vanished," or went "extinct." It was lamentable, Euro-Americans wrote, but inevitable. Different reasons were put forward as to why these peoples had disappeared: their bodies were naturally weak and susceptible to disease, something about their "race" being weaker than the "white race," etc., etc. There was a lot of discussion about nature versus nuture, but an overriding consensus prevailed that native peoples were just prone to extinction. Few at the time talked about colonialism—that dirty "C"-word—and what effect it might have had on indigenous peoples' lives (and deaths). Why bother to interrogate our own colonial practices, Euro-Americans thought, if these people were just going to vanish anyway. This was the view throughout much of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century.

Then, in the late 1960s and 1970s, from the American Indian Movement (AIM) on the mainland to the Hawaiian Renaissance in Hawaiʻi, native peoples rose up and said, "hey, we're still here!" And because of that, historians then had to contend with the fact that these peoples did not disappear or go silently into that night as previously thought. (It is hard to believe that educated people actually thought that Hawaiians were extinct—I mean, Hawaiian-language newspapers stayed in print into the 1940s, leaving only a thirty-year gap until the Hawaiian Renaissance in the 1970s brought Hawaiian language back!—but some were so set in their ways that they refused to consider other alternative historical narratives.) Out of this era came revisionist historical interpretations. Some younger historians started to write histories of survival, rather than extinction—histories of cultural change and adaptation and resistance, showing that native peoples did not just disappear. On the other hand, some historians started to say: look, maybe decline and depopulation weren't inevitable, but were specifically the consequence of foreign imperialism and colonial practices. And some historians, in both the mainland U.S. and in Hawaiʻi, also went back to archeological and pre-contact data to determine that there were actually a lot more indigenous peoples to begin with than previously recognized.

All this is to say that since the 1970s there have been many new threads in indigenous historiography. But two particularly prominent threads seem to come into conflict: one plays up the "victim" narrative and accuses imperialism and colonialism for decimating native populations; the other plays up the "resistance" or native "agency" narrative and asserts that indigenous peoples were never fully colonized.

Well... this is all what was going on in my head during and after the very informative talk on surfing! Because it was clear that these authors subscribed to the former narrative of "victimhood," and by doing so, they seemed to justify that their book should focus more on California and less on Hawaiʻi. All I know is that I tend to go more with the latter narrative—the one emphasizing resistance and native agency—and so my preferred narrative on the history of surfing would focus more on the continuing role of Hawaiians in surfing... showing that the indigeneity of the sport was not lost as surfing culture expanded in the 20th and 21st centuries.

But, I should point out, there is no right or wrong interpretation here! (And there are many books about surfing to choose from.) History is all about choices. And each historian presents a different thesis based on his or her own interests and political biases. We should just be congnizant, I think, that our choices in terms of subject matter, characters, narrative, etc., accurately define our positions on the various issues. However one chooses to write about Hawaiʻi, for example, defines his or her position on the relative importance of Hawaiian people in that history. This is a very big, and very important, issue, and historians must recognize the important role that we play in shaping the way that others will think about it. And, I contend, whether or not most Americans believe that Hawaiians still exist as a people is very important and we should do our best to do right by all the available evidence.

Anyway... :)

Day 25: American Art at the Huntington

Finally, rain. First rainy day in California. So I used my lunch hour today to explore the Huntington's American Art wing.

As always, I am interested in finding the trans-Pacific stories here, and I was able to find some.

Eighteenth-century flower box, owned by an American, made in England

Moving through the galleries chronologically, the first room had some of the oldest objects, mostly from the eighteenth century. Of course, many colonials had a taste for Chinese goods in the eighteenth century. Increasing numbers of Euro-Americans drank tea, right? And where do you think all that tea came from? The object pictured above is made in the Chinese blue-and-white style, but it was actually made in England and enjoyed by some colonial in British America.

The Huntington also has a china set (see below) that once belonged to none other than our own General/President/Superhero George Washington.

George Washington's "china" set, 1780s

The cup of George Washington!

The incredible thing about Washington's "china"—and by "china" I mean porcelain—is that it was, well, made in China! Made in Qing China in the 1790s, note how these objects feature the all-American symbology of eagles and the seal of the Society of the Cincinnati. The other awesome thing about this china set is that it came to the United States on the Empress of China, the first U.S.-China trading ship in our nation's history. (There had been many earlier ships that connected British American colonial ports with the Chinese port city of Guangzhou [Canton], but the Empress was the first to fly under American colors after the Revolutionary War.) I think that these porcelain objects would be great teaching tools for the classroom, especially in a class looking at the history of U.S.-China relations, or even a class simply looking at the role that the Asia-Pacific region has played in American history.

Finally, a big Hudson River School fan like myself cannot help but post some photographs of Frederic Church's Chimborazo, one of the highlights of the Huntington's art collections. Also, I include a photograph of Mary Cassatt's masterpiece, Breakfast in bed. These works comprise perhaps the most famous works in the American collection.

 Frederic Church's Chimborazo (1864), a nineteenth-century American masterpiece

A close-up showing Church's masterful depiction of Ecuadorian flora.

Mary Cassatt's Breakfast in Bed (1897)

And that about wraps it up for Week 2 of my fellowship, as well as Day 25 of my adventure. Today also marks the midpoint of my fellowship. I have completed ten days of research so far, and I have ten days more to go. It might be useful to summarize here some of my findings so far in my archival research, but how would I even start? My notes are a mess. I know that later this fall I will have to go back and re-read them and then finally try to make sense of them all and figure out how they fit into my dissertation. There are, believe it or not, relatively few "a-ha" moments in the archives, when a piece of data grabs one's attention and alerts him or her in the clearest possible way that his or her whole thinking has (or should) change on that subject. I have had no such "a-ha" moments since arriving here. But I am confident that all the little, less exciting moments will add up in the end to make something more interesting. The whole, as they say, will be greater than the parts.

Next post: on my weekend adventure to Ventura County and the Channel Islands (tomorrow), and then maybe a possible hike or something else (on Sunday)... Stay tuned!