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After conch shell greetings and a Hawaiian pule prayer by the Lim Family, a notable hula and musical group, the contestants feasted on poi, lomi-lomi salmon, poke, and lau- lau,2 in a seemingly uninhabited valley. However, my focus here is not the localized practices of feasting and festivity but their touristic other: the popular commodity that circulates in the global cultural marketplace and signals Native hospitality toward out- siders.
But how and when did the tourist luau become an iconic and medi- ated form of commodified hospitality and leisure? Mili-tourism also produces and benefits from institutionalized entertainment.
Commissioned for military use during the Pacific war, the luau also served as a vital instrument of state hospitality during the Korean and Vietnam wars and remains a gendered form of succor for mili- tary bodies. To analyze this taken-for-granted, commodified element of Hawaiian life, I build on the work of feminist scholars of the Pacific who have made gender and sexuality key loci for their critiques of colonial and neocolo- nial relations.
Teaiwa has made the compelling argument that the iconog- raphy of the bikini, named after a US nuclear test site, reveals an eroticized female body that depoliticizes the violence of US colonialism and nuclear testing in Micronesia Responding to Teaiwa through wide-rang- ing reading of representations of Polynesian female bodies, Margaret Jolly proposed that sexual possession—imagined or otherwise—of Polynesian female bodies may be connected to military and colonial possession of the region , I suggest that the idealized social relations portrayed in the scripted luau serve to project an illusory peace over a continuing military occupa- tion.
Offering their aloha love and affection to US soldiers, hula dancers serve as state hostesses, while Island men are relegated to the background of these performances. These scenes of gener- ous hospitality transform colonial possession into benign and mutually agreeable encounters. This article also explores the luau as a highly mediated form of impe- rial hospitality, and I take up the luau as an event during its production by US military cameras.