J. Uluwehi Hopkins, ‘Moʻolelo as Methodology: Hawaiian Knowledge Systems Embedded in Oral Histories’
Friday, 14th July 2023, 10am (BST) – Online
Moʻolelo is the Hawaiian word for “history” and “story.” In the ancestral Hawaiian worldview, these two concepts are intertwined, but it is often seen as a problem by the conservative Western methodology of doing history. Fields such as anthropology or archaeology use oral histories as evidence to start their investigations, but the other fields tend to take verbal community knowledge seriously only after it is verified by those Western social sciences.
Indigenous scholars who are immersed in the worldview of their own cultures bring different perspectives on their own ancestral knowledge, interpreting oral histories in a way that would only make sense to a member of that society. For example, kaona is a Hawaiian method of conveying multiple meanings simultaneously through the verbal delivery of moʻolelo. In this presentation, I will discuss this and other oral devices and how they can be interpreted to be used as valid source material for historical research.
Bio: J. Uluwehi Hopkins is a Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) postdoctoral scholar with an M.A. in Hawaiian Studies and a Ph.D. in the History of Hawaiʻi prior to 1900, both from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She is currently a Lecturer in World History and the History of Hawaiʻi at the University of Hawaiʻi’s West Oʻahu campus. Her research focuses on oral histories prior to the advent of writing, and the conflict between indigenous knowledge and Western influence during the Hawaiian Kingdom era (1810-1893). Her past and future publications include works on Pacific Voyaging, analyzing colonialism in fables, unearthing indigenous management methods of natural resources, and connections between Hawaiʻi and the world during the nineteenth century.