Tasting Earth: Healing, Resistance Knowledge, and the Challenge to Dominion



This article explores an indigenous Hawaiian perspective on health that accords nature the status of healing agent. It reemerged in the Native Hawaiian decolonization struggle of the 1990s where it provided an explicit critique of Western sociocultural and political–economic forces, particularly of the effects these had on the bodies and souls of the colonized and neocolonized Hawaiians. This understanding of healing derives from the ancestors of present-day indigenous Hawaiians, as well as from the enduring ways of knowing and being that survives the onslaught of colonial power. Lying at the core of such understandings—expressed through the Polynesian principle of mana—are ideas about the interdependency between human beings and the earth. Thus, this article asks, how does mana become a basis for resistance? Can it be best understood by contrast to the Judeo-Christian-Islamic theology of dominion? While mana stresses interconnectedness with, love for, and dependence on nature, the biblical text (of Genesis 1:28) posits, in contrast, the separateness from and dominance over nature—a theology at the root of the 20th century, which this article concludes amounts to a politics of human dispossession and environmental degradation.