Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Fred B. Kniffen

Second Advisor

Miles Richardson


This research deals with the dynamic ethnic socio-spatial relations and the transformation of ethnic identities in the early-twentieth-century Honolulu, mainly focusing on the Korean community. Against the widely spread notion that the ethnic relations of Honolulu in those days were little associated with the racist ideology which was prevalent in the contemporary mainland cities, this research shows that white-supremacy ideology had exerted strong influence on the minority groups in Honolulu all the way through their immigration and settling-down process. Although Honolulu included a balanced population among several ethnic groups and thus had no ethnic division of "majority" and "minority" in numerical sense, it witnessed an unequal power distribution along ethnic lines and an application of mainland-style racialization or ethnicization to its social structure. Clear occupational stratification and residential segregation by ethnic groups in the early-twentieth-century Honolulu were nearly equal to situation in the mainland cities. On the basis of socio-spatial segregation, the dichotomized identity, "Local" versus "Haole," evolved. Non-white minorities not only had to compete with each other for limited urban resources or employment opportunities, but also they had to negotiate a collective strategy to cope with an unfair social structure controlled by white supremacy. The coalescence of several ethnic groups into a "Local" identity was fostered by spatial propinquity of their residential neighborhood. Mixed concentration of non-white ethnic groups in a particular place contributed to the formation of a new pan-ethnic identity. The Korean community in Honolulu, most of whose members had been firstly imported to Hawai'ian sugar plantations within the context of colonial capitalism, went through the change of identity in adjusting to the ethnically divided social structure. When the community was incorporated into the Hawai'ian version of multi-ethnic identification process, "Local" versus "Haole," its members' identity as Koreans was also transformed into the identity as Korean-Americans, within the larger construct of "Local" identity. The transformed identity was a product of on-going inter-ethnic negotiation process embedded in the non-white multi-ethnic neighborhood.