Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Jennifer Kahn

Committee Member

Neil Norman

Committee Member

Martin Gallivan

Committee Member

Peter Mills


This dissertation examines components of Hawaiian household economies to understand how people on the remote Nā Pali Coast of Kaua'i Island, Hawai'i, maintained continuity in domestic life well into the late nineteenth century. It focuses on two case studies, notably a series of house sites at Nu'alolo Kai and Miloli'i, two neighboring communities on the western end of Kaua'i's remote Nā Pali Coast. This research situates Hawaiian house sites of the post-contact period in the tradition of household archaeology in Polynesia more broadly. However, it considers patterns of material change in colonial settings through a framework that emphasizes persistence over progressive models of change. Moreover, it highlights the ability of people in Hawaii's hinterlands to respond to the spread of foreign goods and ideas in different ways. The study utilizes archaeological data to investigate a series of grass-thatched house or hale sites at Nu'alolo Kai and Miloli'i. The Nu'alolo Kai data was obtained from an analysis of legacy collections, as well as compiled from published and unpublished analyses. The Miloli'i data was acquired through new excavations I directed at Miloli'i in 2016 and 2017. Using individual house sites as case studies, this project models household economies in an isolated region of Hawai'i and compares these economies to case studies from more central locations in the archipelago. The research demonstrates that nineteenth-century Nā Pali Coast households continued to rely on food production at the level of the household, even as they gradually incorporated small numbers of foreign goods into household economies. Rather than using new materials and practices to recreate households in the image of outsiders, however, nineteenth-century residents of the Nā Pali Coast used foreign goods to create a distinctive version of Hawaiian domesticity. My dissertation argues that, rather than committing themselves to wholesale participation in the market economy, Nā Pali Coast households were able to strategically fashion for themselves a place on the margins of the market economy. While the remoteness of this region constrained participation in Hawai'i's emerging market economy, it also engendered resilience and autonomy during a time of large-scale social and political change in the archipelago. While this dissertation focuses on a remote region of Hawai'i, its primary findings, that Nā Pali Coast households maintained a strategic separation from the market economy in the nineteenth century, has implications studies of colonial-era change and continuity in other parts of Hawai'i and Polynesia.




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