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A/P/A Graduate Student Working Group Workshop: Mariko Chin Whitenack


The A/P/A Graduate Student Working Group reconvenes on Friday, March 24 at 1:00 p.m. Working group member Mariko Chin Whitenack (PhD Candidate, NYU American Studies) presents, “Settler Sustainability and ‘Self-Propagating’ Nonnative Forests.” The paper (abstract below) will be circulated in advance to those who register for the workshop. Lunch will be served.


The A/P/A Graduate Student Working Group is an interdepartmental and interdisciplinary working group for graduate students interested in and/or working on Asian/Pacific/American Studies broadly defined.

Accessibility note: This venue has an elevator and is accessible for wheelchair users. There are single-stall, all gender restrooms available. If you have any access needs, please include them below or email apa.rsvp@nyu.edu.

Settler Sustainability and “Self-Propagating” Nonnative Forests

This paper examines the idea that introduced nonnative plants were needed to meet the demands of Hawaiʻi’s advancing society during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Believing that deforestation was contributing to watershed depletion, the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association (HSPA) sought to sustain their freshwater supplies by embarking on a massive reforestation project in which they experimentally planted millions of nonnative tree seedlings throughout Hawaiian watersheds. This paper juxtaposes colonial ecological knowledge production about the relative adaptability and resilience of native and nonnative trees in Hawaiʻi with colonial discourse about native and nonnative peoples in Hawaiʻi. I track how HSPA scientists came to believe that “mixed blood” forests of nonnative trees were better suited to reforestation than native trees. This conclusion seemingly relied on the assumption that tree species were interchangeable with each other as long as they performed the same ecosystem function; thus the HSPA sought to replace koa and ʻōhiʻa forests with nonnative trees such as strangler figs. Disagreements between HSPA scientists and territorial Bureau of Agriculture and Forestry officials about the utility of the strangler fig reveal that reforestation was far from a seamless process.

Photograph by Mariko Whitenack of Proceedings of the annual meeting of the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association, 1919, University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa Hamilton Library in the Hawaiʻi and Pacific Collections.
Venue: 20 Cooper Square, 3rd floor, Room 372
20 Cooper Square, 3rd floor
New York, NY 10003 United States
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Add to Calendar 03/24/2023 01:00 PM 03/24/2023 02:30 PM America/New_York A/P/A Graduate Student Working Group Workshop: Mariko Chin Whitenack More detail: https://apa.nyu.edu/event/a-p-a-graduate-student-working-group-workshop-mariko-chin-whitenack/ 20 Cooper Square, 3rd floor, Room 372, New York, NY, 10003