Spring 2009

Honors 291H Sophomore Seminar

Laura Ruby


Who Owns Culture? – With a Focus on Hawai'i



The Death of Captain Cook, 1779--Webber


Addressing the art and architecture of Hawaii: What is an observational point of view?


The course will cover four general periods of time in the depiction of Hawaii:


Each section of the course will consider questions of cultural encounter:

  1. What is the art within the cultural context;
  2. What was observed and what was depicted;
  3. What was collected, displayed and arranged?


Learning Outcomes for Honors 291

• students will understand disciplinary perspectives on a theoretical and/or practical problem: Who Owns Culture?–with a Focus on Hawaii

• students will understand how inquiry is conducted within the specific disciplines of the arts, architecture, literature, history, cartography, and museum studies

• students will understand the nature of these disciplines

• students will develop skills for participation in seminars

• students will learn to critically read primary source documents and scholarly publications



The course will include of an investigation of a number of theoretical and methodological frameworks that shape the products of research–for example semiotic approaches, structuralist approaches, artistic formalist approaches, Hawaiian Renaissance approaches, geographical/cartographic approaches.







What argument is made and how is it supported (what visual, historical, and theoretical information is examined)? Include your own assessment of these arguments. Your statement should include an artwork example that supports your position. Each GREAT DEBATE should include new thoughts generated from the readings at hand. You may refer back to earlier readings or discussions and how they bear on your current thoughts. Do not merely recapitulate the readings. Each first draft of your paper should be typed double-spaced for the discussion day. Later, your revised GREAT DEBATE #1 paper and your earlier first draft GREAT DEBATE #1 paper will be turned in together. 



 The topics of each class discussion will be approached through a selection of readings. Students are expected to come fully prepared for active and informed participation in the discussions. Students will contribute to the debates from their notes and typed short answer preparations and their typed first drafts for GREAT DEBATE # 1 & #2. Be prepared to share your writing in small group discussions, and in the larger class format.



This paper will be 10-20 pages in length and will investigate one of the questions raised about the cultural creation or collection of art, artifacts or architecture of Hawaii. The paper will be a careful comparison and contrast of your topic and all research will be properly cited.



Elaborate on the explanatory/interpretative text and any artwork examples the authors cite. Present additional artworks for comparison and contrast. Please bring Powerpoint presentations, handouts or poster-size diagrams/illustrations or prepare to arrive before class time to put your discussion aids on the blackboard.



This includes: attendance, punctuality, class interaction in great debates, emailing and office visit. This course requires full attendance. Visual concepts are often only understood after sharing, comparing, questioning, revising and synthesizing, as well as LISTENING. A tardy or absent student diminishes the overall quality of the class. Three tardies will equal one unexcused absence. Three unexcused absences will lower the final grade.

Please respect your colleagues--plan to arrive on time and please do not talk at cross-purposes to the class discussion nor leave the classroom during the discussion time.

Please turn off all electronics including cell phones, beepers, pagers and texting devices before entering the classroom.


Readings from:

  • Michael F. Brown, Who Owns Native Culture?
  • Sara Boutelle, Julia Morgan, Architect
  • Peter Buck--Arts and Crafts of Hawaii
  • David Forbes, Encounters with Paradise
  • Cynthia Freeland, But is it art?
  • Brian Ireland, “Remembering and Forgetting at The Waikiki War Memorial Park and Natatorium “
  • Rober Jay, Architecture of Charles W. Dickey
  • Patrick Kirch, Feathered Gods and Fishhooks
  • Tony Quagliano, editor, Feast of Strangers: Selected Prose and Poetry of Reuel Denney
  • Ronn Ronck, Hawaiian Almanac
  • Marshall Sahlins, How “Natives” Think
  • Mary Anne Staniszewski, Believing Is Seeing: Creating the Culture of Art
  • ------Thrum--Thrum's Annual
  • catalogue from the Honolulu Academy of Arts on the artworks associated with the Captain James Cook expeditions


Available resources on the UH campus and in the community:

Targeted interviewing relative to the topic of the long paper.



Week 1-4


Brief outline of Hawaiian history—setting the stage

Discussion: How should we regard the ka'ai and ki'i in today's cultural climate?

Take the point of view of

--an art historian


--cultural practicioner


--other (?)


I. The late 18th–early 19th century


  • Hawaiian Almanac--Hawaiian chronology
  • Kirch -- Feathered Gods --"Approaches to Hawaiian Prehistory" -- pp.7-15
  • Who Owns Native Culture?--Michael F. Brown
  • Buck -- Arts and Crafts of Hawaii -- "Religion" -- p.465 ff.
  • Encounters with Paradise--"The Art of Discovery"-- pp.15-26
  • Encounters --"Explorers, Wanderers, and Missionaries, 1820-1880"--pp. 85-96
  • James Burney "The Last Days of Captain Cook," A Hawaiian Reader -- pp.11-19
  • David Malo
  • Samuel Kamakau
  • John Papa Ii
  • Sahlins -- How "Natives" Think -- "Cook After Death" -- p.76 ff.
  • Denney -- Feast of Strangers -- "Myth Is not Dead" -- pp. 220-226 -- opt.
  • Nordyke -- Pacific Images from Captain Cook's Third Voyage -- opt.


A. Visual Arts:

Art and artifacts within their cultural context

Kii--Temple on the Island of Hawaii, 1816--Choris

Kii--Honaunau, 18----Ellis/Archer

Kii--Petroglyphs, Hawaii Island, n.d. Stasack and Cox

Kii--Hulu Manu (feathered image) believed to represent Kukailimoku,18c.--Forster Collection

Kii--Kaai, n.d.

Forbes Caves Artifacts

Dancers of Owhyhee, 1779--Webber


B. Cartographers:



C. Architecture:

Hawaiian hale


  • Laura Judd, pp. 58 (mission house), 61, 64 (hale)
  • Jarves, pp. 70-71
  • Bird -- "Two Hawaiian Households" -- pp.119-126
  • Kamakau -- "House Building" -- p.95
  • Buck -- Arts -- "Houses" -- p.75 ff.



Port of Honolulu, 1816--Choris

Houses of the Governor of Kaiakekua, 1819--Alphonse Pelllion

Lahina, West Maui, Sandwich Islands, 1851--James Gay Sawkins

Interior of a House of a Chief, 1816--Choris

Interior of a House, Honolulu, Oahu, 1838--Auguste Borget


Protestant missionary architecture


  • Judd, pp. 61


A View of the Mission Establishment at Woahoo, 1821--Anonymous

Waioli Mission, 1845


D. Collections—collected, arranged, displayed:






E. Observers writing on the cultural context:


  • Journals of Captain James Cook’s et al 3rd voyage
  • Journals of Captains Nathaniel Portlock, George Vancouver and Otto von Kotzebue
  • David Malo
  • John Papa Ii
  • Samuel Kamakau
  • Hawaiian newspaper articles



Possible topics:

  • The death of Captain Cook--visual and verbal depictions
  • Neo-classical visual (and written) influences
  • Western depictions and collections of "native" artifacts
  • What does a collection imply?


II. The mid-nineteenth century

Week 5-8


A. Visual Arts:


  • Encounters -- "The Volcano School" --pp. 173-183
  • "Genius Displayed: Jules Tavernier" -- p.1 ff.


Volcano of "Kaluea Pele" as Seen from the Side of Mauna Loa, 1841--Titian Ramsay Peale

Night View 1880-81, Eruption from Hilo Bay, 1881--Charles Furneaux

Kilauea at Night, ca. 1887--Jules Tavernier

The art within its cultural context:


B. Cartographers


C. Architecture:







First Iolani Palace , prior to 1884


Iolani Palace , 1884


Aliiolani Hale (judiciary building) , 1874--Rowe

Bishop Museum, 1889


D. Collections:


  • Christie Wilson, "Silent king alone on town ballot," Honolulu Advertiser, October 9, 2000

Hawaiian Exhibit, ca. 1880s

E. Writers of their time:



Possible topics:

  • Do borrowings from other cultures substantiate one's own culture?
  • How did romanticism view other cultures?



III. The late 19th–early-mid-twentieth century

Week 9-12


A. Visual Arts:


  • Encounters--pp. 201-215




The art within its cultural context:


B. Cartographers



C. Architecture:


  • Sara Boutelle--Julia Morgan, Architect
  • Brian Ireland--"Remembering and Forgetting at The Waikiki War Memorial Park and Natatorium"--pp. 53-74


Richards Street YWCA, 1928--Julia Morgan

Honolulu Academy of Arts, ca. 1924 --Bertram G. Goodhue

Kamehameha Schools Auditorium, 1935--Charles Dickey

Moiliili Hongwanji Mission, 1960


D. Collections:


E. Writers of the time:


  • Thrum--Thrum's Annual




Possible topics:

  • Do "status" borrowings from other times convincingly add credence to one's own culture?
  • Does preserving and collecting recontextualize the culture of an earlier time?



IV. Contemporary times

Week 13-16


  • History of Photography -- "Photography in Hawaii" (edited by Lynn Davis)






A. Visual Arts

Night Hula, 1961 -- Jean Charlot


Herb Kane


Gaye Chan et al


Sean Browne


Jan Becket and Joseph Singer


Laura Ruby

The art within its cultural context:


B. Cartographers:


C. Architecture:





D. Collections--Compositors/Compilers/Curators:


  • Marshall Shalins, How "Natives" Think, pp. 1-15, 77,84- 45-46, 118-123, 232-x
  • Michael Brown, Who Owns Native Culture?, pp. 1-10, 16-18, 27-35, 35-37, 57-63, 83-87, 197-200, 209-212, 219-220





E. Written Accounts:










Possible topics:

  • A museum of artworks, antiquities, artifacts whether historical or contemporary, is a repository of a culture’s self-definition and the culture’s relationship to the rest of the world. For any given exhibit questions arise as to who owns the culture exhibited. Such controversies are particularly acute when the artworks and artifacts have a spiritual or sacred nature. Should a museum be inclusive? Should a museum restrict the exhibition of some artifacts?
  • Are commentators on culture collectors?


--Long paper presentations and discussions




December 2010 : in progress