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Reworking Race: The Making of Hawaii's Interracial Labor Movement

Reworking Race: The Making of Hawaii's Interracial Labor Movement

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In the middle decades of the twentieth century, Hawai'i changed rapidly from a conservative oligarchy firmly controlled by a Euro-American elite to arguably the most progressive part of the United States. Spearheading the shift, tens of thousands of sugar, pineapple, and longshore workers eagerly joined the left-led International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU) and challenged their powerful employers.

In this theoretically innovative study, Moon-Kie Jung explains how Filipinos, Japanese, Portuguese, and others overcame entrenched racial divisions and successfully mobilized a mass working-class movement. He overturns the unquestioned assumption that this interracial effort traded racial politics for class politics. Instead, he shows how the movement "reworked race" by developing an ideology of class that incorporated and rearticulated racial meanings and practices.

Examining a wide range of sources, Jung delves into the chronically misunderstood prewar racisms and their imperial context, the "Big Five" corporations' concerted attempts to thwart unionization, the emergence of the ILWU, the role of the state, and the impact of World War II. Through its historical analysis, Reworking Race calls for a radical rethinking of interracial politics in theory and practice.