Jamaica Osorio’s Indigenous Poetics as a Challenge to Global Hybridity
Speaking at a TEDx event in Manoa, Oʻahu in 2013 kanaka maoli (Native Hawaiian) poet Jamaica Osorio declaimed “Global warming will break the foundation of the community/ without even shaking the penthouse suits/ whilst the men and women who finance the earth’s deterioration/ play the role of its saviour … tallying the brown bodies that float by.” In this article I introduce Osorio’s poetry as an example of indigenous ecocriticism interacting with global power flows as she astutely pinpoints an asymmetry of causation and impact dictated by economic and racial power. Her anger is rooted in her genealogy as a kanaka maoli woman, an American citizen, a queer poet and indigenous activist. Kānaka maoli trace their genealogy back to the islands of Hawaiʻi, and make little distinction between human and non-human family; many feel real fury at the environmental destruction capitalist-driven development has wreaked on their islands. Historian Arif Dirlik posited that indigenous epistemologies “assume strategic significance” as “counter resolutions to the contradictions of hybridity”. I suggest that Osorio’s career is metonymic of the techniques kānaka maoli have used for centuries to ensure cultural survival; remaining rooted in place whilst working to build audiences and allies internationally. Osorio’s poetry performances, watched on YouTube by thousands of people across the world, provide a lens through which contemporary indigeneity can be observed re-placing itself, using international networks, in a national system which continues to privilege movement over fixity regardless of the cost to the places it moves between.