A Critical Reading of Aloha and Visual Sovereignty in Ke Kulana He Māhū
Native Studies and Queer Studies have begun creating linkages that interrogate the normalization of heterosexuality within Native communities and the ways that settler colonialism has been unquestioned in Queer Studies scholarship. This article adds to this body of scholarship by performing a critical re-reading of the film, Ke Kulana He Māhū (2001), a film about the history of sexuality in Hawaiʻi and the role of māhūs in modern day Hawaiian culture. The film engages the struggles for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Hawaiʻi throughout the 1990s, but, curiously, it obscures the Hawaiian sovereignty movement that was happening simultaneously. Against this backdrop, I examine the rhetorical performance of aloha in the film and the dangers of harnessing Hawaiian culture to support the recognition of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) rights. This article also examines how the film participates in visual sovereignty to foreground Kanaka Maoli commitments to cultural identity, community and belonging.