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ERIC Number: EJ960099
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 17
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0161-6463
Captive Women in Paradise 1796-1826: The "Kapu" on Prostitution in Hawaiian Historical Legal Context
Arista, Noelani
American Indian Culture and Research Journal, v35 n4 p39-55 2011
This article begins the arduous work of undermining the firmly entrenched image of the wanton "wahine", starting with stories about Hawaiian women resisting the amorous advances of foreign ship captains who assumed that women should be made available to them if they offered material or monetary remuneration. What emerges is a picture of how women often had to fight against the power of this emergent stereotype as it took shape during their own lives. Hawaiian women and girls were not simply waiting for foreign ship captains and sailors to become their lovers, though it was true that many women engaged in the sex trade for money, material, or social gain. As increasing numbers of whalers arrived at the islands, sexual encounters between Hawaiian women and foreign men would bring the "ali'I" (chiefs), foreign sailors, ship captains, merchants, and American missionaries into serious conflict beginning in 1825, resulting in the pronouncement of legal restrictions by the "ali'I" that sought to regulate foreigners' access to Hawaiian women. The second half of this article moves away from the historiographic emphasis on male actors by investigating how Hawaiian "ali'i wahine" (chiefesses) like the Kuhina Nui (prime minister) Ka'ahumanu primarily enforced the pronouncement of the 1825 "kapu" (prohibition) on prostitution. The "kapu" as innovation afforded the "ali'i wahine" a novel opportunity to deliberate, judge, and mete out punishment publicly to women who violated the "kapu," thereby exercising authority in ways that they did not have prior to the casting down of the "'ai kapu" in 1819. Finally this article concludes by situating and evaluating the "kapu" in Hawaiian legal-historical context in order to argue that the "kapu" on women, although innovative, was not an entirely new moral law inspired or imposed by the Sandwich Islands Mission. (Contains 43 notes.)
American Indian Studies Center at UCLA. 3220 Campbell Hall, Box 951548, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1548. Tel: 310-825-7315; Fax: 310-206-7060; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Hawaii