Mana of Translation: Translational Flow from the Baibala to the Mauna, The
In The Mana of Translation: Translational Flow from the Baibala to the Mauna, Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada makes visible the often unseen workings of translation in Hawaiʻi from the advent of Hawaiian alphabetic literacy to contemporary struggles over language and land. Translation has had a massive impact on Hawaiian history, both as it unfolded and how it came to be understood, yet it remains understudied in Hawaiian and Indigenous scholarship. In an engaging and wide-ranging analysis, Kuwada examines illuminative instances of translation across the last two centuries through the analytic of mana unuhi, the mana (power/authority/branch/version) attained or given through translation. Translation has long been seen as a tool of colonialism, but examining history through mana unuhi demonstrates how Hawaiians used translation as a powerful tool to assert their own literary, cultural, and political sovereignty, something Hawaiians think of in terms of ea (life/breath/sovereignty/rising). Translation also gave mana to particular stories about Hawaiians—some empowering, others harmful—creating a clash of narratives that continue to this day. Drawing on sources in Hawaiian and English that span newspapers, letters and journals, religious and legal documents, missionary records, court transcripts, traditional stories, and more, this book makes legible the utility and importance of paying attention to mana unuhi in Hawaiʻi and beyond.
Through chapters on translating the Hawaiian Bible, the role of translation in the Hawaiian Kingdom’s bi-lingual legal system, Hawaiians’ powerful deployment of translation in the nineteenth-century nūpepa (newspapers), the early twentieth-century era of extractive scholarly translation, and the possibilities that come from refusing translation as demonstrated in legal proceedings related to the protection of Maunakea, Kuwada questions narratives about the inevitability of colonial victory and the idea that things can only be “lost in translation.” Writing in an accessible yet rigorous style, Kuwada follows the flows of translation and its material practices to bring forth the power dynamics of languages and how these differential forces play out on ideological and political battlefields. Specifically rooted in Hawaiʻi yet broadly applicable to other colonial situations, The Mana of Translation provides us with a transformative new way of looking at Hawaiian history.