Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2021
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
New York University Graduate School of Arts and Science
Bureaucracy and Social Movements: Native Hawaiian Philanthrocapitalism and Indigenous Nation-Building

For Indigenous peoples in the 21st century, bureaucracies are the major way that resources and relations with the settler state are managed, and the site that Indigenous peoples attempt to understand if some kind of life within and outside of a settler state can be imagined and achieved. Although bureaucracies are fundamental for Indigenous persistence, the question of Indigeneity and bureaucracy, and how bureaucracy manages living and dying, and how Indigenous peoples actually promote anti-colonial movements through bureaucracy, remains under-theorized. How do bureaucracies mediate the relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous forms of social organization, personhood, and value? In the context of Hawaiʻi, this dissertation research examines the limits and affordances of “indigenizing” bureaucracy, aiming to provide new insights into the bureaucratic form and understandings of contemporary Indigeneities. This project examines how the largest Native Hawaiian philanthropic bureaucracy, with an endowment of over $12 billion and 400,000 acres in landholdings, is constituted by the necessities of settler state sanction and the accumulation of capital, yet manages to intergenerationally seed anti-colonial Indigenous movements. As anthropologists have broadly remarked on the adaptability of Polynesian societies, this project explores how bureaucracies have rearticulated core anthropological concepts including chieftainship, mana, and social organization. In corporatized Indigenous bureaucracy, individuals seeking self-determination must navigate the frictions in an organization that encompasses radically different concepts of value and personhood. By examining bureaucratic practices, documents, meetings, archives, and the life stories of activists and bureaucrats, this research aims to retheorize the bureaucratic form, relations of settler colonialism and U.S. Empire, as well as the conditions of contemporary Indigenous social reproduction.