HomeIDEYA: Journal of Humanitiesvol. 3 no. 1 (2001)

From Literary to Cultural Studies: The Struggle Over Hawaii

E. San Juan Jr.

Discipline: Humanities, Philippine Literature



Hawaii is one of those words/terms so thoroughly fetishized that it seems impossible anymore to grasp what its referent is, if that has not been completely erased by its status as a signifier fashioning its own signified. Michener's Hawaii; the film South Pacific, and an avalanche of tourist brochures, travel promotions, and advertisements in magazines and Internet have all guaranteed to fix and sanctify Hawaii as an icon of the exotic, pleasure-filled Otherness or "Fantasy Island" and to reproduce it infinitely. Encyclopedias and handbooks cannot remedy the mystification. E. D. Hirsch's The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy yields the bare bones of information supposedly required by all responsible citizens.