This article explores racial ambivalence in the social activism and music composition of Uldrick Thompson, a European American teacher and eugenicist living in Hawai‘i during the early territorial period. I read Thompson’s song “Pele’s Chant” as a revisionist text of Hawaiian legendry adapted to his liberal Christian ethos and eugenic thinking. Ambivalence is evident in the composer’s simultaneous emulation and denial of Hawaiian musical models; it is also evident in his guardianship of young Hawaiians and his belief in Hawaiians’ fate as a “dying race.” The concept of ambivalence is at the core of much of the contemporary literature on orientalism that examines the subject positions of those who simultaneously idealize and repudiate ethnic/racial others. Despite its importance, the concept is often treated in an implicit manner, and this article seeks to bring it into full and explicit relief.

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