Taking Hawaiian Culture Seriously

As he examines these issues, Ing will draw on a rich but largely untapped digital resource: the testimony contained in nearly a million pages of 19th-century Hawaiian-language newspapers. “It was a very explicit attempt to preserve Hawaiian culture in the face of a cultural genocide,” he says.

Ing’s new focus has a personal aspect, too. “It’s my attempt to round out my genealogy,” he explains. Ing, who is of Chinese and native Hawaiian ancestry, says that it has been several generations since anyone in his family spoke Chinese. Thus, his Harvard doctorate in East Asian Languages and Civilizations in a sense restored part of his heritage. Nor is Hawaiian a first language for Ing’s family, because of governmental prohibitions against speaking Hawaiian in schools that began at the turn of the 20th century. So, the Mellon grant, which Ing will use in part for advanced study of the Hawaiian language at the University of Hawaii, will restore the other half of his hyphenated ancestry. 

Rick Van Kooten, executive dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, shares Ing’s excitement about his new direction. “In the College, we’ve always welcomed fresh perspectives and new voices. I’m looking forward to the insights that Michael will bring not only to our campus but to several academic disciplines as a result of the Mellon fellowship.”

Story by Julie Gray