"Who are you to tell us our history?" : kultur och religion i hawaiianers möte med amerikansk mission

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The life and history of the Hawaiians has been documented ever since the contact with Western adventurers at the end of the 18th century. In connection with the arrival of American missionaries in 1820, these missionaries introduced and established a puritanical doctrine and method of communicating knowledge by way of the written word. The encounters between the different cultures have been described as peaceful. It has, however, proven that these descriptions are not entirely truthful – there is another side to the story. It is thus reasonable to ask how the introduction to the Christian doctrine and so-called Western civilisation unfolded.

Many Hawaiian academics and researchers emphasise that the way history has hitherto been written, which is considered colonial both in composition and expression, should be revised. It has become apparent that situations of conflict and resistance existed from the first encounter with Westerners, a fact that has not been made clear in the writing of history to date. Hence, relevant questions are: How have "we" Westerners interpreted and understood the Hawaiian culture and history? How has this understanding and interpretation been perceived by the Hawaiians themselves?

In this thesis, focus is directed at the encounters that occurred between missionaries and Hawaiians chiefly in the first half of the 19th century. In these situations of encounter, a number of problems arose as a consequence of disparate opinions concerning the outlook on the human body, modes of dressing, sexuality, education, knowledge and, not least, opinions on social relationships. The strategies of dealing with these issues and situations, from the part of the Hawaiians as well as the missionaries, are in this context of utmost importance. Higly significant and also discussed, is the role of the missionaries as civilizational colonialists, and the colonial context in which the missionaries not only acted, but also generated.

Thus, the aim and direction of this thesis is to locate, document and discuss discrepancies between the two cultural groups in the apprehension of history, civilization, culture, behavior, morality and religion. Furthermore, the intent is to question previous writings of Hawaiian history, and its angles, with the purpose not only to find a wider but also a new understanding of Hawaiian culture and histoy.


  • Kristina Hellner Taylor
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Philosophy, Ethics and Religion


  • de-colonization, conflict, colonial, Hawaiian medicine, culture, hula, resistance, Hawaii, knowledge, education, sexuality, social relationships, dress, body, civilization, behavior, civilizational colonialists, Hawaiian culture, Hawaiian history, American missionaries, de-familiarization, Hawaiian Movement, history of religions, anthropology, history, comparative religion
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • Tord Olsson, Supervisor
Award date2007 Dec 17
  • History and Anthropology of Religions
Print ISBNs978-91-977212-0-2
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2007-12-17 Time: 10:15 Place: Pangea (hörsal 229), Geocentrum II, Sölvegatan 12, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Rothstein, Mikael Title: Ph. D. Affiliation: Dept. of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen ---