Collective action and political agency in the leeward Kohala hinterlands, Hawai‘i Island

  • Thegn Ladefoged Anthropology, The University of Auckland and Te Pūnaha Matatini, A New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence, New Zealand
  • Mark D McCoy Department of Anthropology, Southern Methodist University, USA
  • Michael W Graves Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, USA


The kuaʻ‘āina, or backcountry, in the Hawaiian Islands was the setting for a dynamic back-and-forth between the collective action of commoner class farmers and political elites. We examine how the long-term history of that dynamic left behind spatial patterns in the form and distribution of domestic, agricultural, and ritual architecture across the Leeward Kohala Field System. We find a contrast between places that were the best and most reliable for farming and lands prone to shortfalls. Less ideal lands were less densely populated with fewer efforts to standardize plot sizes and a lower investment in temple architecture. We suggest that as leeward Kohala was drawn more and more into competition for power that involved local and non-local chiefs, the autonomy of residents diminished, and the ability of local inhabitants to negotiate the demands of elites after this shift was variable, with greater demands likely placed on residents living in optimal zones.

How to Cite
Ladefoged, T., McCoy, M. and Graves, M. (2020) “Collective action and political agency in the leeward Kohala hinterlands, Hawai‘i Island”, Journal of Pacific Archaeology, 11(1), pp. 10-20. Available at: (Accessed: 1December2021).
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