It's not often that a single person's life can reveal the dramatic social and political shifts of a community. From his youth, John Papa I'i
, an important statesman and author, played a pivotal role in shaping and supporting the 19th century Kingdom of Hawai'i In Facing the Spears of Change: The Life and Legacy of John Papa I'i
(University Of Hawai'i Press
, 2016), Marie Alohalani Brown
, Assistant Professor of Religion at University of Hawai'i at Manoa, carefully traces the contours of his biography with nuance and beauty. The book is rich with detail and one of the few histories to put the vast corpus of Hawaiian language sources to use in understanding the island's past. John Papa I'i's life also serves as a rewarding vantage point for thinking about Hawaiian religion during the early years of the Kingdom of Hawai'i, and the expanding influence of Christianity. In our conversation we discussed genres of life writing, challenges of reframing Hawaiian modes of thinking into western academic categories, Christian conversion, John Papa I'i's s upbringing, the importance of family genealogy, the Laplace affair, King Kamehameha and his descendants, Hawaiian language sources, elder years and productive retirement, and John Papa I'i's importance for Hawaiians today.
Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha. He is the author of Interpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab
(Oxford University Press, 2017). He is currently working on a monograph entitled
The Cinematic Lives of Muslims, and is the editor of the forthcoming volumes
Muslims in the Movies: A Global Anthology (ILEX Foundation) and
New Approaches to Islam in Film (Routledge). You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at email@example.com.