How can a thermal analysis of Indigenous dispossession help us envision decolonial futures beyond the artificial cold? Across two centuries of Western presence in Hawaiʻi, freezing and refrigeration technology facilitated the integration of the Islands into a complex global food system that functions, in large part, on the manipulation of temperature in order to keep foods fresh across vast distances. Effecting what I term thermal colonization, American political investments in the cold chain engaged ideas of manifest destiny, casting political expansion across Indigenous lands as a god given right. Suturing together race, freshness, and refreshment as expressions of territorial entitlement, the refrigerator has come to mark the conceptual and bureaucratic boundaries of domesticity, normative relations, and sustenance within the settler state. Where fridges do not appear, in contrast, signal spaces of habitation that exceed or sit beyond the capitalist economy’s cold chain infrastructures. This talk considers the role of contemporary puʻuhonua (places of refuge), such as houseless and resistance encampments, as ambient sites of Kanaka Maoli self-determination, abundance, and sovereignty.
Hiʻilei Julia Kawehipuaakahaopulani Hobart (Kanaka Maoli) is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. She researches, writes, and teaches about settler colonialism, food politics, and Indigenous sovereignty. Her book, Cooling the Tropics: Ice, Indigeneity, and Hawaiian Refreshment, is forthcoming from Duke University Press.