Crime and criminality: Historical differences in Hawai'i

Sally Engle Merry

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Native Hawaiians are disproportionately arrested and incarcerated in the state of Hawai'i, according to statistics from the criminal justice system. Asians are under-represented and whites are represented slightly above their proportion of the population. Although these statistics have sometimes been used to make arguments about criminal propensities, this article argues that such differences are not inherent but are socially produced. They reflect the kinds of behavior that are defined as criminal and subjected to energetic arrest, prosecution, and conviction while other behaviors are ignored. Using historical data, this article argues that criminalization is a social process that zeroes in on certain populations and their activities and that its targets change with alterations in historical circumstances.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)412-534
    Number of pages123
    JournalContemporary Pacific
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - 2002


    • Colonialism
    • Crime
    • Criminalization
    • Hawai'i
    • Historical anthropology
    • Law

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Geography, Planning and Development
    • Sociology and Political Science


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