Letter from the Chair


Anthropology at the University of Hawai`i has a long and rich history.  That history builds first of all upon a recognition that these islands are home to Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) who continue to assert kuleana (rights and responsibilities) as ‘Ōiwi (indigenous people) of this land.  It is a history built upon a combination of our geopolitical location in the Pacific and as a bridge to Asia, as well as a wealth of scholars with a fine legacy of research linked to this very locus. 

As an original land grant institution, the University of Hawai`i shoulders particular responsibility to the community, in keeping with the Hawaiian concept of kuleana (rights, responsibilities).  We recognize the fragility of island ecosystems – including their cultural, intellectual, and natural resources.  Thus we place firm commitment in upholding responsibilities to those resources, exploring past conditions of settlement, challenging existing stereotypes of interaction, and developing means of leadership in ourselves and our students for the future.  The broad-based knowledge upheld by anthropology provides us with the strength of our differences to embrace that stewardship.  This is how we conceptualize kuleana.

We extend the concept kuleana to:
* the land and people around us
* the work that we do as growing scholars
* the community that we build through our interactions
* the teaching and learning that are foundational to the department

Kuleana defines the ethical basis upon which we establish who we are and what we do as anthropologists. If anthropology is the study of humankind in all its interactions, symbols, objects, emotions, meaning systems, and struggles through time, then kuleana embeds itself as the highest principle of respect and obligation within that endeavor.

Our faculty members are diverse in their interests, theoretical orientations, and areal foci, but unite in a commitment to anthropology as a comprehensive discipline that embraces the human condition through time and space.  Whether examining national memorials, contraceptive practices, media talk, skeletal remains, or pottery shards, we embrace these equally as fields of research that enrich our holistic understanding of human practices and meanings. 

Many of our graduates go on to careers in teaching and research at universities throughout the world.  But importantly, a number of our graduates go on to careers for which anthropology is a springboard – that is, NGOs, governmental agencies, museums, contract work, and the like.  The work of applied anthropology (here, particularly archaeology) grows and only reiterates our commitment to deep training as the discipline spreads into broad fields.  We take this as a sign of the strength and relevance of what we do.

We invite you to be part of our community  – whether virtually or in person.  Our legacy may build on a rich past, but it is very much part of a vibrant, energetic, evolving present and future.

I extend my warmest aloha to you!

News & Events

>Academics: Interested in pursuing a Master’s degree that focuses on engaged practice in communities? Consider the Department of Anthropology's new MA track program in Applied Cultural Anthropology in Hawai‘i, the Pacific and Asia!

>Kudos: Congratulations to Leslie Sponsel and his book Spiritual Ecology: A Quiet Revolution on winning at the Green Book Festival.

>KULEANA Award: Congratulations to the KULEANA Award winners, Adam Lauer and Tina Schmidt!

>Kudos: Congratulations to Gordon Wyatt (Urban and Regional Planning, M.A. student) for winning the Ann Dunham Soetero scholarship for 2014 - 2015.

Christine R. Yano
Department Chair

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Christopher Bae

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Christian Peterson

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