Social Process in Hawai‘i

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 2.03.42 PMOne of the most interesting aspects of the RASRL Collection is the seriousness the students brought to their work.  Most of their work was only ever seen or evaluated by their professors; some provided background and qualitative data for other researchers – other undergraduates, graduate students, and professional researchers.  The papers were sometimes rough drafts of articles that would later be published in Social Process in Hawaii, arguably the longest running academic journal published in Hawai‘i, about Hawai‘i,  and by local residents of Hawai‘i.  The first issue was published in 1936 and although it has not always been published annually, it has served as a venue for historical and cultural research on Hawai‘i.

According to the editor, the purpose of Social Process was “to meet the growing need for the dissemination of sociological research material on Hawaii and to contribute some little measure of insight into the problems of race relations in the larger world community.”  The journal, which was produced regularly from 1935 to 1955, was a collaborative effort between faculty and UH students. These students were members of the Sociology Club who, in addition to contributing to the production of the journal, took field trips and attended lectures on social science research.

The journal was unique for several reasons: first, it was truly collaborative, a joint effort of faculty and students. Students oversaw all aspects of the editing and dissemination of the journal.  In a letter to the editor of Ka Leo, the campus newspaper, members of the Social Process staff responded to the accusation that faculty were responsible for the production of the journal.

… the students on the ‘Process’ staff do all the planning with advice from the sociology professors who serve in advisory positions. They (the staff) decide on the central theme of each year’s publication. They also decide on whom to ask to write articles on this particular theme …

Faculty members and senior scholars did frequently contribute articles, but Social Process regularly published articles by students. Second, the journal was truly local. Every article published in every issue pertains to Hawai‘i and is the result of research about Hawai‘i by writers who had firsthand knowledge of the subjects.   Finally, Social Process became a respected publication, accepted by sociologists from outside of Hawai‘i who were seeking information about sociological research in Hawai‘i.  Social Process was not, in the early years, a polished professional publication. The first issues were little more than loosely bound mimeographed copies. They were not formally typeset and contain no drawings, charts, maps, or illustrations. But scholars took it seriously because of the quality of the content, ignoring the poor production values enjoyed by well-known and well-supported academic journals.

Professional scholars contributed work to Social Process;  members of the  UH Sociology faculty, of course, were regular contributors and the early issues featured articles by Everett StonequistEllsworth Farris, and Herbert Blumer, well-regarded sociologists of the day. But student work dominates the journal’s pages, demonstrating their expertise and analytical skills.

Social Process was produced and sold in Hawai‘i to members of the academic community as well as the general public.  It was read by politicians and bureaucrats, by teachers, social workers, and members of the general public.  The articles addressed pressing social issues, especially those pertaining to the “second generation” – the children of immigrants to Hawai‘i, the fastest growing segment of the local population.

Social Process has stood the test of time; articles from these early issues are still cited, illustrating their ongoing usefulness as primary sources. They retain their value not so much because of the data or even the sociological analysis. Much of what they wrote has been superseded by contemporary scholarship. But the work retains a sense of immediacy and provides direct access to the past as the best primary sources do.

Every issue of Social Process is available on the University of Hawai‘i library website.

Please visit our companion website Local Citing where we feature several community studies form the RASRL Collection in the Mapping the Territory exhibit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s