Beyond Hawaiʻi

Now available for pre-order from The University of California Press! (Or get it on Amazon or at your local bookseller, such as at Nā Mea Hawaiʻi / Native Books!)


In the century from the death of Captain James Cook in 1779 to the rise of the sugar plantations in the 1870s, thousands of Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) men left Hawaiʻi to work on ships at sea and in nā ʻāina ʻē (foreign lands)—in California, the Arctic Ocean, the equatorial islands, and throughout the Pacific Ocean. Beyond Hawaiʻi tells the stories of these forgotten indigenous workers and how their labor shaped the Pacific World, the global economy, and the environment. From sandalwood harvesting to whaling, guano harvesting, and gold mining, these migrant workers were essential to the expansion of transnational capitalism and global ecological change. Bridging American, Chinese, and Pacific historiographies, Beyond Hawaiʻi is the first book to argue that indigenous labor—rather than ships, goods, and diseases—was the glue that held the Pacific World together.

Beyond Hawaiʻi: Native Labor in the Pacific World, coming May 2018 from The University of California Press.

Beyond Hawaiʻi builds upon research in my doctoral dissertation (SUNY Stony Brook, 2015) which won the 2016 Rachel Carson Prize for Best Dissertation from the American Society for Environmental History as well as the 2016 Constance Coiner Award for Best Dissertation from the Working Class Studies Association. Here are some comments from the award and prize committees:

2016 Rachel Carson Prize for Best Dissertation:

“A transnational study of labor and environmental history within the Pacific Ocean, Rosenthal’s dissertation excels across the categories we used in our evaluation: writing, research and documentation, analysis, and contribution to the field. Rosenthal argues that historians of Hawaii and the environment have overlooked a central constitutive force in the Pacific World: the labor of indigenous Hawaiians. Drawing on archival research, which featured little-used indigenous newspapers, Rosenthal reconstructs the movements of Hawaiian workers across the transoceanic networks of the nineteenth century. It argues that the movement and mobility of Hawaiians across the ocean was a key component of transoceanic integration in the nineteenth century and that work and workers’ experiences are key to understanding how the Pacific Ocean functioned as part of a ‘Pacific world.’  His narrative, as fluid as it is compelling, shines new light on the meanings of circulation and the making of economies and environments. But, perhaps most importantly, Rosenthal re-centers scholarship on circulation on the construction and exploitation of human bodies. In doing so, Rosenthal also charts an exciting path of future research that integrates environmental, labor, transnational, and indigenous histories.”

2016 Constance Coiner Award for Best Dissertation:

“Without ever using the word ‘intersectionality,’ this dissertation deftly shows how class, gender, race, ethnicity, and basic power relations were intimately fused yet distinct amidst the economic forces of the 19th century Pacific World.  Wonderfully written with sensitive and nuanced understandings of both the natural and human worlds, Hawaiians Who Left Hawaii . . . will undoubtedly be published pretty much as it is and will likely become a key text in the flourishing field of the History of Capitalism.”

“[W]hat I found exciting about this project is the way Rosenthal frames his study of an overlooked piece of working-class culture and history so clearly through an analysis of how class, race, and gender shape and are shaped by work, capitalism, and global interactions.  I appreciate, too, Rosenthal’s attention to the classed, raced, and gendered bodies of workers and to representations.”


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