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Authenticity, Invention, Articulation: Theorizing Contemporary Hawaiian Traditions from the Outside

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This article theorizes potential contributions of outsider analysis to the study of contemporary indigenous traditions, taking Native Hawaiian canoe voyaging and repatriation disputes as its primary examples. The argument proceeds by specifying analytical contributions of articulation theory in contrast to limitations of invention and authenticity discourses. A shared liability of the latter discourses is identified in their tendency to reify identity in ways that preclude engagement with the full range of cultural articulations constitutive of living tradition. Cultural struggle, in particular, is theorized as the aspect of identity articulation that is most explanatory of the character of tradition and least addressed by theories of invention and authenticity.

Affiliations: 1: University of Colorado at Boulder, Department of Religious Studies, 292 UCB, Boulder, Colorado 80309;, Email:


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