Cooling the Tropics: Ice, Indigeneity, and Hawaiian Refreshment

When and Where

Tuesday, February 14, 2023 10:00 am to 12:00 pm


Hiʻilei Julia Kawehipuaakahaopulani Hobart (Kanaka Maoli)


How can a thermal analysis of Indigenous dispossession help us envision decolonial futures beyond the artificial cold? Across two centuries of Western presence in Hawaiʻi, freezing and refrigeration technology facilitated the integration of the Islands into a complex global food system that functions, in large part, on the manipulation of temperature in order to keep foods fresh across vast distances. Effecting what I term thermal colonization, American political investments in the cold chain engaged ideas of manifest destiny, casting political expansion across Indigenous lands as a god given right. Suturing together race, freshness, and refreshment as expressions of territorial entitlement, the refrigerator has come to mark the conceptual and bureaucratic boundaries of domesticity, normative relations, and sustenance within the settler state. Where fridges do not appear, in contrast, signal spaces of habitation that exceed or sit beyond the capitalist economy’s cold chain infrastructures. This talk considers the role of contemporary puʻuhonua (places of refuge), such as houseless and resistance encampments, as ambient sites of Kanaka Maoli self-determination, abundance, and sovereignty.

Speaker Bio

Hiʻilei Julia Kawehipuaakahaopulani Hobart (Kanaka Maoli) is Assistant Professor of Native and Indigenous Studies at Yale University. An interdisciplinary scholar, she researches and teaches on issues of settler colonialism, environment, and Indigenous sovereignty. Her first book, Cooling the Tropics: Ice, Indigeneity, and Hawaiian Refreshment (Duke University Press, 2022) is a recipient of the press’s Scholars of Color First Book Award. Her articles have appeared in refereed journals such as NAIS, Media+Environment, Food, Culture, and Society, and The Journal of Transnational American Studies, among others. She is the co-editor of the special issue “Radical Care,” for Social Text (2020), and the editor of Foodways of Hawaiʻi (Routledge, 2018). She is currently working on a project about cultural memory, commemoration, and hauntings in Hawaii State Parks. Professor Hobart holds a PhD in Food Studies from New York University, an MA in Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture from the Bard Graduate Center, and an MLS in Rare Books Librarianship and Archives Management from the Pratt Institute. She joins Yale from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was an Assistant Professor of Anthropology.


Transnational Justice Project, CrimSL Research Cluster for the Study of Racism and Inequality, Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies