Episode 32

Colonialism in Hawai’i  - with Dr. Maile Arvin

Published on: 8th August, 2023

Amy is joined by Dr. Maile Arvin to discuss her book, Possessing Polynesians: The Science of Settler Colonial Whiteness in Hawai'i and Oceania and the intersections between settler colonialism and patriarchy on the Hawai'ian islands.

Dr. Maile Arvin is an associate professor of History and Gender Studies at the University of Utah. She is a Native Hawaiian feminist scholar who works on issues of race, gender, science and colonialism in Hawai‘i and the broader Pacific. At the University of Utah, she is part of the leadership of the Pacific Islands Studies Initiative, which was awarded a Mellon Foundation grant to support ongoing efforts to develop Pacific Islands Studies curriculum, programming and student recruitment and support.

Arvin’s first book, Possessing Polynesians: The Science of Settler Colonial Whiteness in Hawaiʻi and Oceania, was published with Duke University Press in 2019. In that book, she analyzes the nineteenth and early twentieth century history of social scientists declaring Polynesians “almost white.” The book argues that such scientific studies contributed to a settler colonial logic of possession through whiteness. In this logic, Indigenous Polynesians (the people) and Polynesia (the place) became the natural possessions of white settlers, since they reasoned that Europeans and Polynesians shared an ancient ancestry. The book also examines how Polynesians have long challenged this logic in ways that regenerate Indigenous ways of relating to each other. Her work has also been published in the journals Meridians, American QuarterlyNative American and Indigenous StudiesCritical Ethnic StudiesThe Scholar & Feminist, and Feminist Formations, as well as on the nonprofit independent news site Truthout.

From 2015-17, Arvin was an assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside, in Ethnic Studies. She earned her PhD in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, San Diego. Her dissertation won the American Studies Association’s Ralph Henry Gabriel prize. She is also a former University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Charles Eastman Fellow in Native American Studies at Dartmouth College, and Ford Foundation Pre-doctoral Fellow.

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Breaking Down Patriarchy
An Essential Texts Book Club
Breaking Down Patriarchy is a podcast for everyone! Learn about the creation of patriarchy and those who have challenged it as you listen to bookclub-style discussions of essential historical texts. Gain life-changing epiphanies and practical takeaways through these smart, relatable conversations.

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Amy Allebest

I grew up in Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, reading, writing, drawing, singing, and practicing the piano and violin. I attended Brigham Young University, where I met Erik Allebest during my first week of freshman year, studied abroad in Israel, lived in Chile for a year and a half as a missionary, and married Erik all before graduating with a degree in English. Erik and I moved around - to Colorado, Southern California, Utah, Spain, and Northern California - while Erik started and ran chess businesses for a living (primarily chess.com) and I stayed home to raise our four children. Those four kids have become brilliant, hilarious people and are our very best friends. I am a long-time trail runner, a recent CrossFitter, a lifelong reader and writer, and an almost-graduate of Stanford University's Master's of Liberal Arts program.