Sunday, February 24, 2013

Free Education and Free Labor

I have recently been writing some essays and articles for a few other blogs/websites besides this one. Nothing regular. Just guest-blogging as needed in support of those organizations that are so dear to me, organizations fighting for free education and free labor: the Free University of NYC and the New York State GSEU (Graduate Student Employees' Union).

I have been thinking a lot about public higher education in the United States recently, and making sense of my own experiences as both a student and teacher/worker. The State University of New York (SUNY) is both my academic/intellectual home, as well as my employer. And there are serious issues with the way that the State of New York—through SUNY and CUNY, the City University of New York—treats its students and its workers. That's why we must organize: both as students and as workers. I support and work with the Free University of NYC because it is a coalition of students and educators from across the city who want to radically actualize a more democratic, horizontal, and inclusive model of what free (and truly public) higher education looks like. I also support and am a member of the GSEU because only through unionization can teaching assistants and student labor resist exploitation at the hands of administrators who seek to "cut costs" by saddling us with greater responsibilities while providing minimal pay and benefits.

At the website of the Free University of NYC, I helped kick off the site's new blog with a post in late January (collectively edited by Free U folks) introducing the new blog format. On February 1, I wrote a piece, "What Can We Learn from History? The Russian Revolution," introducing a historical example of the role of "free universities" in leftist thought (here, the role of "free universities" in the anarchist movement of the Russian Revolution). I also reported on various education related events in the city, for example, the People's Recovery Summit, which took place February 1-3 in Brooklyn. Weighing in on a controversy at Brooklyn College over the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement against Israel, I wrote a piece "The 'State' of Higher Education" on February 3 examining the different attitudes people in the Free U community have towards the role of the state in public higher education; some want the state to be less involved in higher education, while others would like to see the state become more involved. On February 5, I weighed in on Stony Brook University's recent creation of a task force to look into bringing MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) to our university. I argued that we who care about the fate of truly public higher education must "Be the MOOC resistance." And finally, on February 8, I reported on two divestment campaigns being discussed in New York City colleges right now: a campaign against fossil fuel companies and a campaign against companies that do business in the Occupied Territories of Palestine.

The reason that so many of my posts were clustered in the first week of February is because we decided that co-curators of the Free University of NYC website (and the blog and the twitter handle) should rotate each week, ensuring that a diversity of voices and perspectives are featured.

On February 17, I also wrote a piece for our union's website, CWA Local 1104 / GSEU (Graduate Student Employees Union), titled "What Kind of Union Will We Be?" Writing for the union website was a bit different than writing for the Free University website, for instead of being a web "co-curator," I was a guest author for the GSEU, and I had to get approval of my essay by union leadership before it was published. Our union had not published an essay or article on the website since autumn 2011, so getting an essay up there will hopefully inspire others to submit essays and articles in coming months.

Then, on February 20, I reported on a rally and press conference at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art on the student body's ongoing struggle to preserve their school's historic mission to provide free education to all.

I cannot say whether or not I will continue writing essays and articles for other websites. I certainly will continue to provide updates here on my own Pacific-related research (and adventures!). Next month I look forward to writing my annual "Anniversary post." Yep. This blog will turn three in March! Huzzah!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mapping Hawaiian Labor History, Part IV

As promised, here is the fourth update in my "Mapping Hawaiian Labor History" series. (See parts I [on guano islands], II [on California], and/or III [on whaling] here.) This post will focus on the history of Hawaiian labor in the nineteenth-century sugar industry.

I am not going to map this history in terms of geographic space. While narratives of Hawaiian labor in guano mining, gold mining, and in whaling in the nineteenth century involved the migration of Hawaiian workers to far-off places, and so part of what I did was map the "Hawaiian Pacific World" as it was shaped by these migrations, the story of sugar is different. The history of sugar looks inward upon Hawaiʻi. In fact, there was a lot of migration within Hawaiʻi thanks to the sugar industry. Workers "shipped" from ports to remote plantations on other islands within the archipelago. But to map these migratory patterns would take a lot of work, and, frankly, I don't have enough data on these movements to make any geographic sense out of them.

So instead we'll make temporal demographic maps today to answer the following question: who worked on Hawaiʻi's sugar plantations over the nineteenth century?

Our first "map" demonstrates how much sugar was produced during the first half-century of sugar production in Hawaiʻi:

Hawaiian Sugar Exports, 1836-1880 (Source: I made this)

As you can see, the production of sugar was consistently minimal for the first few decades of Hawaiian production. The primary labor force during this period—almost 100% of workers—were Native Hawaiians. As a reference point, the first shipment of "coolies" (Chinese migrant workers) arrived in the year 1852. As seen here, the arrival of those first few hundred Chinese workers did not significantly affect overall sugar production in Hawaiʻi. In fact, we don't really see any sort of uptick in production until the late 1850s, and then a huge surge in the 1860s. Historians have traced this rise in sugar production to the disruption caused to sugar production in the Atlantic World by the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865). But in terms of labor, the quantity of foreign laborers imported in the 1860s remained quite low—much too low, in fact, to account for the great increase in production during the decade. While new technologies and methodologies of production may have increase total sugar output per worker, we can also safely say that more Native Hawaiians were hired on plantations during this decade, although qualitative evidence (that I am sorting through right now in my dissertation chapter) show that planters had huge anxiety at this time regarding the viability of the Hawaiian laboring population. They wanted "coolies" (Chinese labor), instead. It didn't just have to do with economics; it had to do with ideas about race and genetics, as well. (More on that in my dissertation!)

By the mid-1860s, sugar production had hit a "new normal," plateauing for about a dozen years until the year 1876. In that year a Treaty of Reciprocity was signed between the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi and the United States removing tariffs on Hawaiian sugar. As can be seen, production soared after 1876. In fact, it continued to grow at astounding rates throughout the end of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century. The number of laborers on Hawaiian plantations also grew, from several thousand to perhaps around (or over) one hundred thousand in the early twentieth century. (I don't have the twentieth-century numbers right in front of me.) The employment of Hawaiians, however, did not keep pace with these trends. By charting the demographic changes in Hawaiʻi post-1876, we can visualize how Hawaiian workers were replaced / displaced by foreign workers thanks, at least in part, to the economic incentives of the Treaty of Reciprocity.

Immigrant Arrivals in Hawaiʻi, 1852-1893 (Source: I made this)

The above image shows the quantities and nationalities of immigrant arrivals to the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in the forty years between the arrival of the first "coolies" in 1852 and the overthrow of the Kingdom by haole capitalists in 1893. From 1852 to the mid-1860s, it is clear that few foreign workers arrived onto Hawaiian sugar plantations. There were big "shipments" of Chinese (shown in red) in 1852, 1859, and in 1865. In sum, a little over one thousand Chinese workers arrived during these thirteen years. Meanwhile, thousands of Hawaiians were employed on plantations, especially during the 1860s rise in sugar production across the Kingdom. In 1865 the Kingdom established a Board of Immigration to import laborers. The next eight years saw the importation of thousands of workers. While most were still Chinese, there were also Japanese and Oceanian recruits (the latter including South Pacific Islanders as well as Micronesians from contemporary Kiribati). That second phase of labor importation ended in 1873. A new phrase began with the Treaty of Reciprocity in 1876. Once again, Chinese were the predominant migrant labor force over the ensuing decade, followed by Portuguese, Oceanians, and even Germans and Norwegians. But, prior the mid-1880s, the number of Japanese entering the Kingdom was quite small. 

In 1882 the United States Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred Chinese workers from entry into the United States. This was an age characterized by trans-Pacific fears of a "Yellow Peril," in which an imagined tidal wave of Asian migrants would take over white people's jobs (and lands) and engender a race war. This fear was felt across the Americas as well as in Australia and Oceania. Finally, the "Yellow Peril" reached Hawaiʻi. A Chinese Exclusion law was enacted in 1888. At that time, the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi turned its attention towards Japan. This was a significant turn of events, in that by the twentieth century, people of Japanese ancestry became a plurality of the population in Hawaiʻi. But why Hawaiian attitudes towards Japanese were more favorable than attitudes towards Chinese during this period is not exactly clear. (I have some ideas, but I'll leave those for a possible future post.) Not only were the days of Native Hawaiian labor over, but so were the days of Chinese labor. Both populations moved in greater numbers to the port cities to take up urban employment, ceding plantation labor to the Japanese (and later Filipinos) who took their place.

Immigrant Arrivals in Hawaiʻi, 1852-1893

To visualize this another way, we can see (as in the above image) the same data mapped as annual percentages, with 100% representing the total number of immigrants arriving in a given year. This "map" demonstrates that from 1852 to 1884, Chinese (in red) were the predominant labor force arriving in the Hawaiian Islands. Then, from 1884 to 1893 (and beyond), Japanese (in blue) became the predominant migrant labor population.

I am presently working on writing the chapter of my dissertation that focuses on this history: the history of Native Hawaiian labor in the sugar industry, and how Hawaiians were replaced by Chinese labor in the 1860s and 1870s. My analysis only goes up to 1876, so I can't say much about what happened after that point. But if you have any questions or comments about this history, before or after 1876, I would be happy to receive your thoughts. 

Mahalo for reading!