Reviewed by: AAA Executive Program Committee
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Identity and Equity
Secondary Theme: The Visual
Talking Lei is a multimedia storytelling installation that explores the process of lei making as a metaphor for the embodiment of the connectedness of storytelling in physical space. This installation includes a gallery of autoethnographic written vignettes and visual arts elements. The written vignettes address issues of race, culture, and kinship. The visual arts elements include light boxes, photographs, and watercolor paintings. This installation includes a performance element in the form of interactive lei making that is ongoing throughout the installation.
Talking lei is an autoethnographic study that explores local Hawaiian identity, local Hawaiian knowledge, and the everyday practices of teaching and learning in contemporary Hawai’i. This project centers the importance of researcher identity, positionality, and reflexivity. In particular, the researcher considers how her positionality as a hānai (adopted) daughter in the context of Hawai'i intersects with her identity as a Korean Adoptee raised in the American South to create the unique experience of a twice-adopted daughter. The written vignettes of this installation examine the researcher’s identity and positionality in the context of this ethnographic study of local Hawaiian knowledge.
This installation includes an interactive lei making performance. The researcher will make hakulei, a style of lei created by bundling flowers and wrapping them together. This installation extends this metaphor of bundling and wrapping into physical space: the multimedia elements are displayed in a lei around the room, and visitors are encouraged to move freely throughout the space and interact with these pieces in whichever order they choose, creating a narrative lei of their own.
As an autoethnographic multimedia storytelling installation, Talking Lei considers emerging and unconventional understandings of methods and representation that can contribute to the ways researchers enact qualitative methodologies and envision future research.
This installation was supported by the Rackham Graduate School and the Center for World Performance Studies at the University of Michigan. The written vignettes and photographs are produced by Laura-Ann Jacobs (University of Michigan). The watercolor art is produced by Katie Wong (University of Hawai’i, Manoa).