Kapi'olani at the brink: Dilemmas of historical ethnography in 19th-century Hawai'i

Sally Engle Merry

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Shifting accounts of the confrontation in 1824 between a Christianized Hawaiian chiefess and the priestess of Pele, the deity of the volcano, illustrate the way the same story changes over time. A comparison of these different versions and of the circumstances of their production provides a way of thinking about how historical ethnographers can use such plural and competing accounts as the basis for writing histories of colonial encounters. It shows how the choice of one or another version of a story has significant implications for the histories we tell and for the way groups understand their pasts.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)44-60
    Number of pages17
    JournalAmerican Ethnologist
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Feb 2003


    • Colonialism
    • Ethnography
    • Hawai'i
    • Historical anthropology
    • Missionaries

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Anthropology


    Dive into the research topics of 'Kapi'olani at the brink: Dilemmas of historical ethnography in 19th-century Hawai'i'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this