Faculty of the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration represent a range of fields, departments, and areas of expertise. On a regular basis, this blog will feature profiles of those faculty.
Tell us about your research.
My research is about how indigeneity is performed – ranging from the stage to everyday life. Specifically, I document and analyze the work of Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) performers who create defiant modes of Hawaiian expression and knowledge to challenge static visions of indigeneity as well as to create spaces of resistance, pride, mourning, and diasporic renewal. Given the powerful role of the state and culture industries in how Hawaiian indigeneity is performed and lived, these performances generate new forms of Hawaiian knowledge and ways of being in the world that are overlooked by the dominant public, yet are supported by community belonging and recognition. It caught my attention because of my own experiences as a performer when I was younger. I knew so many dynamic artists who were generally unacknowledged and unappreciated by the wider Hawaiian community because they did not perform in typically identifiable “Hawaiian” forms.
What can you share about your fall semester class, “Pacific Islander Studies”?
In Fall I taught a course that examined the lives of Pacific Islanders in the United States. The course analyzed the material conditions that have structured Pacific Islander migrations and experiences. Students hopefully gained a greater understanding of how Pacific Islander communities in the US and in the Pacific have been transformed by foreign interventions such as colonialism, the introduction of Christianity, US militarism, the Pacific diaspora, and the legacy of anthropological observation. Throughout the course we focus on Pacific Islander activism and the struggle to decolonize Oceania.
…these tools provide a framework to discuss the complexities of Pacific diaspora, emphasizing Indigenous epistemologies that do not rely on narratives of linear progress and material evidence, thus opening up a space to reimagine and put into practice a more dynamic performance of diasporic connectivity and Indigenous mobility without advocating for assimilation or “homecoming” as the only solution.
How do you see your work fitting into broader scholarship on race, indigeneity, and transnational migration?
My current research hopes to disrupt the perception that Natives who do not live on their ancestral lands are somehow inauthentic, suffer from cultural loss, and do not have a place in their nations. While much has been written about diaspora in the Native American context, it has not been discussed in the context of the Indigenous Pacific and certainly not alongside an analysis of emergent cultural nationalist claims and questions of difference under American racial paradigms. Drawing from Native Pacific cultural studies and queer of color critique, I examine how indigeneity is performed when it comes home from the diaspora. Together, these tools provide a framework to discuss the complexities of Pacific diaspora, emphasizing Indigenous epistemologies that do not rely on narratives of linear progress and material evidence, thus opening up a space to reimagine and put into practice a more dynamic performance of diasporic connectivity and Indigenous mobility without advocating for assimilation or “homecoming” as the only solution.
Tell us about a book in your field that has inspired you to think in new ways.
Jean Rhys, The Wide Sargasso Sea : I first read this book in a college postcolonial literature course. I always return to this novel to think through postcoloniality, race, and gender.
Also, Audra Simpson’s Mohawk Interruptus continues to inspire because of its methodological interventions and insightful analyses on ethnography and Indigenous sovereignty. It should be required reading in Ethnic/American Studies.
What do you like about being at Yale and in New Haven?
Arethusa ice cream.
What have you most enjoyed this semester?
I really enjoyed the Native Ivy conference and the Ethnic Studies conference dedicated to Don Nakanishi.
The Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration advances work related to Ethnic Studies fields; to intersectional race, gender, and sexuality research; and to Native and diasporic communities in the United States and abroad.