Musical Communitas: Gathering around the ’Ukulele in Hawai’i and the Foursquare Church

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The ukulele is a musical and cultural instrument rooted in the multicultural mix of Hawai'i. This small and distinct instrument brings a deep historical and cultural identity in understanding cross-cultural missions. Rooted in the disciplines of ethnomusicology, phenomenology, and sociology, this research study employs both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to reveal the interplaying dynamics that the ukulele brings. What the research concludes is that the ukulele reveals three categories of relationships, viz., (1) the ukulele as musical instrument that depicts the neutral and disarming characteristics of the instrument in crossing social boundaries; (2) community building, that depicts the accessibility of the instrument within a variety of social gatherings; and (3) community sustaining, including the impact of performance and the influence of the music making process. The intersecting reality of these three dimensions is "musical communitas," a new category that builds on the liminality of human experience. The missiological significance of the ukulele is found in (1) new methodologies born out of the cross-cultural mix of Hawai'i and the Pacific Rim that contribute to the field of ethnomusicology; and (2) new ministry applications and functions in leadership development both in the church and the marketplace. This research ultimately unveils a "communitas" that musically animates the human journey toward the experience of life together.

Mentor: Roberta R. King, PhD

Degree Name

Doctor of Missiology (DMiss)

First Advisor

King, Roberta R.

Document Type





Ethnomusicology, Hawaii, Ukulele music, Christianity and culture


Missions and World Christianity


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