Date of Award

Fall 12-5-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Morgan Read-Davidson

Second Advisor

Jan Osborn

Third Advisor

Ian Barnard


Haole is a contested, multi-faceted word in Hawaii. It generally means “foreigner,” or “white person.” It is used to refer to both tourists, and haoles like me, or those who are born and raised in Hawaii. In either case, it is always negative, referring to something “other” and really, colonial. Paraphrasing rhetorician Kenneth Burke, this thesis analyzes how this word “works in the world,” and from there, explores how identity, culture, and belonging are constructed through language. The essential questions become: are culture and identity constructed and performed, through language, tradition, and cultural engagement? Or is some blood content or ethnicity warranted to claim cultural belonging, and in this case, a Hawaiian identity? The method for this research began with seven interviews with people from Hawaii—a mix of haoles, hapa (mixed race) people, and ethnic Hawaiians—followed by the analyzing of these interviews, and ending with my personal engagement with these findings autoethnographically. Writing this thesis has changed how I see my own identity in Hawaii. I have used this autoethnographic method to share this transformation, explore it, and through it, mimic the in-flux nature of identity construction and language at large. I see this thesis as fluid and subject to change; as a jumping off point for future research on an otherwise “silent” topic, silent in that people in Hawaii do not openly discuss this issue; as the beginning of a necessary dialogue on what it means to be haole, what it means to be Hawaiian, and the nature of identity and cultural construction at large.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Included in

Rhetoric Commons



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