Ethnic Studies Anniversary : Celebrating 50 Years of Our History Our Way

Our History, Our Way

Our celebration and this website are dedicated to the memory of Dean Alegado.  
Where We Come From: Our History, Our Way! tells our history through about 2010, and we bring you up to date with "A Brown (White) Paper: On the 50th Anniversary of the UHM Ethnic Studies department, A Kāhea to the University of Hawai‘i to Sustain the Hawaiʻi Student, Community & Legislative Mandate for a Distinct and Integral Department of Ethnic Studies."  Born in struggle and forged in community activism as well as academic excellence, the UHM Department of Ethnic Studies has brought international acclaim to our pioneering vision of Oceania as a lifeworld sustained by struggles as well as scholarship.  

Ethnic Studies faculty and students collaborate to learn about ethnic and racial group dynamics, histories and identities, as well as challenges facing Indigenous peoples and minorities, inter-group conflicts, racism and discrimination. Our students are encouraged to undertake groundbreaking scholarship that makes a difference in our communities,  After graduating, our alumnae often keep in touch and tell us how they value their ES education.  We make explicit connections between ethnicity, race, and other aspects of social life (i.e. economy, politics, cultural values and gender relations), underscoring the unique history of Hawaiʻi’s multi-ethnic working people. Social justice is central to our work of identifying -- and often taking part in -- historic and contemporary patterns and issues in multi-ethnic societies.  Students learn to connect classroom ideas and knowledge to current events and processes in both Hawaiʻi’s communities and the world beyond.  We place special emphasis on civic engagement and the skills involved in change-oriented democratic citizenship. We undertake this project through our scholarship, community involvement, activism, and service learning.  Service Learning is a core value of the College of Social Sciences, and the Ethnic Studies Department, and the program has flourished under the experienced guidance of ES Professor Ulla Hassager. Ethnic Studies has long played a central role in providing both students and service learning opportunities for the program and students respond to their experiences as formative in their UH educations.  

Our department takes strong stands against Anti-Asian violence, both at the beginning of the pandemic and presently in the recent ongoing wave of violence beginning in March 2021.  We support Black Lives Matter. ES professor Ethan Caldwell organized a series of Black Lives in Hawaiʻi events.  We are protectors of Mauna Kea, and we have taken a stand for decolonizing both Hawaiʻi and Palestine among many issues.  You can find out about many of our events on the department's Padlet

We understand our histories as a series of conversations between the past and present about the future. The Center for Oral History, (part of Ethnic Studies and directed by ES Professor Davianna McGregor), and the North Shore Field School, (directed by ES professor Ty Tengan), bring together students faculty, and community members to make the voices of our elders accessible for generations to come. COH has done tremendous community outreach in the past year: through Weaving Voices, a podcast series which connects our communities by collecting and hearing Hawaiʻi life histories; through Oral Histories of the experiences of the pandemic in our communities. The North Shore Field School brings together students with community leaders and elders, with the students mapping out the importance of the living memories that kūpuna are graciously providing.  

In Fall 2020, the UHM administration -- operating under a shortsighted directive from the state to cut costs in response to the pandemic --  proposed closing (euphemistically called "stopping out") Ethnic Studies and many other small, poorly resourced, but critical departments and programs. Members of our community, students, staff, and colleagues in our field made their voices heard at a Board of Regents (BOR) meeting in September 2020, and thanks to our friends, we successfully resisted the latest attempt at "stopping us out."  

Some Highlights

I'm sure I have missed much, but there is more to come!


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