Theses Doctoral

Geothermal Potentials in Puna, Hawaiʻi: How Pele Teaches the Spaces Between

Iwashita, Ann M.

This dissertation offers an examination of the concept of sustainability, via an ethnography of geothermal life in the district of Puna on Hawaiʻi Island. In the midst of global discourse on climate change, population growth, and energy needs, ‘sustainability’ brands a remarkable number of initiatives to signify a thoughtful connection with earth, and concern with the continuation of all of existence. Close examination of what sustainable measures have meant for life in the district of Puna on Hawaiʻi Island, however, reveal the ties of discourses on and enactments of ‘sustainability’ and ‘sustainable’ living to the sustenance of market, colonial inheritance and renewability, and the manufacture of narratives that erase forms of existence—human and nonhuman, including and especially the geological. Examinations of the notion of ‘sustainability’ alongside currents of Kanaka ʻŌiwi inquiries into earth’s heat element and its relations, and settler experiences of geothermal activity, reveal the pliability of material Natures in the face of human desire, the graceless scaffolding of lives under Late Liberalism, and the structure of Late Liberal biases as suspended in love with the biontological—those forms deemed “Life.” In the dissertation I examine engagement points between literatures on Development, Indigeneity, and Space, in particular what they reveal about possible relationships with land and resource, as well as literatures on Foucauldian biopower and what Elizabeth Povinelli (2016) has termed “geontopower”—increasingly exposed arrangements of power as divisions between Life and Nonlife in the Late Liberal period—to think through the commodification of rock and earth, and the spaces between things where the possibility for hulihia (overturning) continues to exist.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Iwashita_columbia_0054D_13740.pdf Iwashita_columbia_0054D_13740.pdf binary/octet-stream 6.44 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Applied Anthropology
Thesis Advisors
West, Paige
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 25, 2017