Academic journal article Law & Society Review

Colonizing Hawai'i: The Cultural Power of Law

Academic journal article Law & Society Review

Colonizing Hawai'i: The Cultural Power of Law

Article excerpt

Reviews of Sally Engle Merry, Colonizing Hawai'i: The Cultural Power of Law. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1999. 375 pages. $21.95 paper, $75.00 hardcover.

Sally Engle Merry's Colonizing Hawai'i: The Cultural Power of Law won the Law and Society Association's 2002 Hurst Prize in Legal History. In writing this important interdisciplinary work, Merry, an anthropologist, has given us a careful historical study of the colonization of Hawai'i by New Englanders in the middle part of the nineteenth century, taking, as she puts it, "a magnifying glass to one small place and at the same time deploy[ing] a wide-angle lens to view the larger processes that envelop that place" (p. 9). To produce this work, Merry wore two academic hats. In the guise of historian, she examined sixty years of court records from the town of Hilo, covering roughly the period 1820-1880, in order to understand the ways in which Hawaiians both appropriated and transformed Anglo-American law as a means of resisting the European imperial project. But in thickening her archival findings, she also conducted a significant amount of ethnographic research in Hawai'i in order to explore and understand the Hawaiian plantation system of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The book is divided into two parts. …

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