Beyond Hawaiʻi

Thousands of Native Hawaiian men left Hawaiʻi in the nineteenth century as migrant workers in a global capitalist economy. This is their story…

Hide Droughing
“Hide Droughing,” in Richard Henry Dana, Jr., Two Years Before the Mast (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1911).

Beyond Hawaiʻi presents the story of a century of trans-Pacific economic and ecological changes from the death of Captain Cook to the rise of sugar plantations (1780s-1870s). During this century, approximately ten thousand Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) men left Hawaiʻi to work on ships at sea and in nā ʻāina ʻē (foreign lands). Each chapter of Beyond Hawaiʻi looks at a different industry and its work environment: from sandalwood harvesting to whaling to guano mining to gold mining—in Hawaiʻi, California, the Arctic Ocean, Latin America, and throughout the Pacific Ocean. Beyond Hawaiʻi argues not only that Hawaiian men were essential to these trades, and that they should be included in the histories of these places and industries, but moreover that Hawaiʻi’s migrant workers and the global capitalist economy they served are essential to understanding nineteenth-century Hawaiʻi. The cosmopolitanism of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi was, in large part, made by its workers. Beyond Hawaiʻi uses the writings of the workers themselves, published in nineteenth-century Hawaiian-language newspapers, to tell the story of how Hawaiian labor made the Pacific into a “world.”

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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