From September 10-12, 2015, the United Kingdom’s University of Cambridge’s Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Science and Humanities will be holding an academic conference “Sovereignty and Imperialism: Non-European Powers in the Age of Empire.” From the conference’s website:
“In the heyday of empire, most of the world was ruled, directly or indirectly, by the European powers. On the eve of the First World War, only a few non-European states had maintained their formal sovereignty: Abyssinia (Ethiopia), China, Japan, the Ottoman Empire, Persia (Iran), and Siam (Thailand). Some others kept their independence for a while, but then succumbed to imperial powers, such as Hawaii, Korea, Madagascar, and Morocco. Facing imperialist incursion, the political elites of these countries sought to overcome their political vulnerability by engaging with the European powers and seeking recognition as equals.
The conference ‘Sovereignty and Imperialism: Non-European Powers in the Age of Empire’ will explore how diplomats, military officials, statesmen, and monarchs of the independent non-European states struggled to keep European imperialism at bay. It will address four major aspects of the relations of these countries with the Western imperial powers: armed conflict and military reform (Panel 1); capitulations, unequal treaties, and subsequent engagement with European legal codes (Panel 2); royalty and courts (Panel 3); and diplomatic encounters (Panel 4). Bringing together scholars from across the world, the conference will be the first attempt to provide comparative perspectives on the non-European powers’ engagement with the European empires in the era of high imperialism.”
Dr. David Keanu Sai was 1 of 15 scholars from across the world that was invited to present their research and expertise that centers on non-European States. Dr. Sai’s research focuses on the Hawaiian Kingdom as an independent and sovereign state and its continuity to date under an illegal and prolonged occupation by the United States of America since the Spanish-American War. He will be presenting a paper titled “Hawaiian Neutrality: From the Crimean Conflict to the Spanish-American War.” The following is Dr. Sai’s abstract for his paper:
“Only a decade since the Anglo-French proclamation of November 28, 1843 recognizing the Hawaiian Islands as an independent and sovereign State, the Hawaiian Kingdom would find itself being a participant State, during the Crimean conflict, in the abolishment of privateering and the formation of international rules protecting neutral goods. This set the stage for Hawaiian authorities to secure international recognition of its neutrality. Unlike States that were neutralized by agreement between third States, e.g. Luxembourg and Belgium, the Hawaiian Kingdom took a proactive approach to secure its neutrality through diplomacy and treaty provisions by making full use of its global location, which undoubtedly was double-edged. On the one hand, Hawai‘i was a beneficial asylum, being neutral territory, for all States at war in the Pacific Ocean, while on the other hand it was coveted by the United States for its military and strategic importance. This would eventually be revealed during the Spanish-American War when the United States deliberately violated the neutrality of the Hawaiian Islands and occupied its territory in order to conduct military campaigns in the Spanish colonies of Guam and Philippines, which was similar, in fashion, to Germany’s occupation of Luxembourg and the violation of its neutrality when it launched attacks into France during the First World War. The difference, however, is that Germany withdrew after four years of occupation, whereas the United States remained and implemented a policy of ‘denationalization’ in order to conceal the prolonged occupation of an independent and sovereign State. This paper challenges the commonly held belief that Hawai‘i lost its independence and was incorporated into the United States during the Spanish-American War. Rather, Hawai‘i remains a State by virtue of the same positive rules that preserved the independence of the occupied States of Europe during the First and Second World Wars.”