Packaging Paradise: Organizing Representations of Hawaii

A. Prasad, ed., Against the Grain: Advances in Postcolonial Organization Studies, Copenhagen: Copenhagen Business School Press, 32-53

35 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2008 Last revised: 4 Nov 2012

Date Written: December 5, 2008


This chapter focuses attention on the image of Hawaii - a state, a racial identity, and a cultural form - as a compelling example of how representation by dominant groups enables colonialist processes of organization, objectification, and ontological othering. We present a case study of how narratives and images were deftly combined and organized in the popular culture artifact, the Hawaiian record album, which encapsulates intersecting colonial interests. By engaging a postcolonialist frame, we "attempt to investigate the complex and deeply fraught dynamics of modern Western colonialism and anti-colonial resistance, and the ongoing significance of the colonial encounter for people's lives both in the West and the non-West" (Prasad, 2003, p. 5). We turn to overlooked sites for postcolonial analysis that often evade the scrutiny of organization scholars (cf. Bannerjee & Prasad, 2008; Jaya, 2001; Prasad & Prasad 2003b). The Hawaiian record album formed an important stage of Hawaii's construction as a conceptual resource, just as pineapple, sugar and battleships played important roles at earlier stages. The iconic Hula girl and her musical accompaniment have for decades formed the foundation of a strongly appealing and attractive (popular) Hawaiian identity, helping make (a representation of) Hawaii instantly recognizable the world over, and fueling a powerful tourist industry. Contemporary efforts to re-establish "authentic" Hawaiian motifs in Hawaii, too, draw upon colonial representations (e.g., Halualani 2002), as does initiatives to "resist". Informing even native islanders' conceptions of Hawaiian identity, these representations fall under what we call an ontological shadow. In this way, record albums were a major vehicle in the campaign to assimilate Hawaii into the United States, serving to incorporate a cultural tradition of the exotic "Other" into Western culture through developments in high fidelity recording technology.

Keywords: Postcolonial, Hawaii, Sonic Branding, Visual Communication, Critical Tourism, Popular Culture, Representation

Suggested Citation

Schroeder, Jonathan E. and Borgerson, Janet L., Packaging Paradise: Organizing Representations of Hawaii (December 5, 2008). A. Prasad, ed., Against the Grain: Advances in Postcolonial Organization Studies, Copenhagen: Copenhagen Business School Press, 32-53, Available at SSRN:

Jonathan E. Schroeder (Contact Author)

Rochester Institute of Technology ( email )

92 Lomb Memorial Drive
Eastman Building, Room 3006
Rochester, NY 14623
United States
5854752703 (Phone)

Janet L. Borgerson

DePaul University ( email )

Institute for Business and Professional Ethics
Chicago, USA
United States
5857293075 (Phone)

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