Asia and the Pacific in German Culture conference in Honolulu Civil Beat:

How Come There Are So Many German Streetnames in Hawaii?

By Christina Gerhardt 02/12/2014

It turns out Germans have a long history in Hawaii and Europeans have a long history in the Pacific. That’s clear from the scholarship and teaching of Niklaus Schweizer, Professor of German at the University of Hawaii, who regularly publishes and teaches courses on the topic.

Heinrich Zimmerman, a German, sailed with James Cook on his third Pacific voyage in 1776-1780, publishing his own account of the trip. German poet and naturalist Adelbert von Chamisso was aboard the Russian ship Rurik, commanded by Otto von Kotzebue, which sailed to Hawaii in 1815.

Von Chamisso subsequently wrote one of the first Hawaiian grammar books. And, of course, there’s Captain Henrich Berger of Berlin, who conducted the Royal Hawaiian Band.

Asia and the Pacific have also long figured in the German cultural imagination, often as a result of Germany’s colonization of the Pacific in the 19th-century and also of German literary, linguistic, and religious-philosophical interest in Asia as the birthplace of ancient wisdom.

A two-day conference taking place on Friday, Feb. 14 and Saturday, Feb. 15 at the University of Hawaii at Manoaʻs Center for Korean Studies will focus on Asia and the Pacific in German Culture, bringing together scholars from around the world to present work on the topic.

The first day will focus on the Pacific. James Bade, a leading scholar of Samoan history and Professor of German at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, will kick off the conference with a keynote address on “The German Connection with the Pacific, 1843-1918: Samoa, New Zealand and Tonga.” Subsequent papers that day will consider German traders in the Marshall Islands; Tonga and the Friendship Treaty with the German Empire, as well as Samoa and the German presence. Taken together, these papers and others will illuminate the relationship between Germans and the Pacific.

Additionally, German Orientalism is currently an incredibly fast-growing field or research, as evidenced by the number of books, edited volumes and conference being devoted to the topic, with particular regard for the German engagement with South and Southeast Asia.

The second day of the conference will focus on the relationship between Asia and German Culture. Douglas McGetchin, Associate Professor of History at Florida Atlantic University, will kick off the second day with a keynote address on “The Specter Haunting German Orientalism: Edward Said’s Influence on the Study of Germans, India and the British Empire.”

Subsequent panels on Saturday will consider Indian philosophy in German thought; Southeast Asia and China in novels and films. Sai Bhatawadekar, Assistant Professor of Hindi at the University of Hawaii, will deliver the final address on “The Present and Future of German Orientalism.”

On Friday afternoon, student clubs, including Aaja Nachle Hawaii Indian Dances, German Club, Samoan Club and the South Asian Club, will be dancing and performing music.

The two-day event is free and open to the public. Full program available here:

About the author: Christina Gerhardt is Assistant Professor of German at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she teaches 20th-century German literature and film. Her writing has appeared in the Cineaste, Film Quarterly, Honolulu Star Advertiser, HuffPost Hawaii.


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