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UNDER THE VOLCANO: The People of Kalapana, 1823 to 2010 [Book review]

Kalapana is a significant place in Hawaiian imaginaries. It was one of the few Hawaiian communities to survive as such into the twentieth century. It also lies in the shadow of Kīlauea, the most active of the Hawaiian volcanoes and home of the goddess Pele. Under the Volcano, authored by Langas and kūpuna (elders), is divided into three parts. In part 1 (chapters 1–2), Langlas describes the abandonment in 1819 of the priest-led religion of heiau (temples), the subsequent conversion to Christianity, and the multi-layers of property-making enmeshing Kalapana: for instance, the overlapping land stewardship regimes associated with the different strata of pre-contact Hawaiian social organization—ahupua‘a, moku, and kuleana; the mid-1800s Māhele (land division); and the impact of the subsequent splitting of land into government lands, crown lands, private property, and homesteads. While this history of land reform played out throughout the Hawaiian archipelago, certain distinctive features set Kalapana apart. For instance, while no commoners received kuleana awards in Kalapana, the sale of government land in combination with the Hawaiian practices of joint family inheritances as well as of sharing land, meant that “a class distinction between owners and non-owners” (27) did not develop. This emphasis on egalitarianism is a key characteristic of Kalapana, as is the vibrant hybrid culture that emerged as a result of absorbing the changes in land ownership and beliefs.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
McCormack, F. (2018). UNDER THE VOLCANO: The People of Kalapana, 1823 to 2010 [Book review]. Pacific Affairs, 91(4), 863–865.
Pacific Affairs University British Columbia