Date Awarded

Fall 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)




Jennifer Kahn

Committee Member

Jonathan Glasser

Committee Member

Frederick Smith


Archaeology in the Hawaiian Islands predominantly focuses on pre-contact and immediate post-contact contexts, while largely ignoring post-1870 phenomena. The scarcity of studies examining these settings points out the rich opportunities for investigating dynamics that influenced Hawaiian sugar plantation laborer perceptions of power, authority, and class relations on 20th century Hawaiian plantations. Part of the Hawaiian sugar planters’ strategy to dominate the political governance of Hawaiʻi and the social dynamics of the plantations was the establishment of racial hierarchies. Planters reinforced such hierarchies by promoting divisions and segregation and by establishing places of power in the form of managers’ and luna (overseers) residences. These physical structures served as materializations of planter control reinforcing planter hegemony. This paper analyzes spatial and documentary data from the Pacific Sugar Mill, the Honokaʻa Sugar Company and the Onomea Sugar Company plantations on Hawaiʻi Island using a Marxist lens. Another theory that is employed to explore how planter hegemony materialized on the sugar plantation landscape of Hawaiʻi is Foucault’s notion of the “panopticon.” I expected to find structures of power in locations supporting the surveillance of laborer camps. However, my analysis suggests that Hawaiian sugar management strategies opposed this expectation. Viewshed analyses indicate that managers and luna had limited surveillance capabilities from their homes, thus contradicting the possibility that an overt direct visual surveillance was an active management strategy. These findings also suggest that laborer camps located closer to structures associated with plantation management were under more direct surveillance than more isolated camps based on their position within the racial hierarchy. Additionally, this investigation indicates that the surveilled areas enjoyed more access to facilities located in the core of the plantation such as stores, schools, and hospitals. Ultimately this analysis of three 20th century sugar plantations in Hawaiʻi highlights the materialization of planter hegemony on the landscape by underscoring the relation between spatial and social distance in the context of racial hierarchies.



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