Geoff White

Geoffrey White, PhD

Professor and Department Chair

Curriculum Vitae

Office: Saunders Hall 322
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Phone: 956-5601
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General Interests
Current Research
Selected Publications
Courses Taught


I received my B.A. from Princeton in 1971 and PhD from the University of California, San Diego in 1978. At San Diego I discovered the Pacific and began research in the Solomon Islands where I have been working off and on ever since. I am currently a professor in the department and Adjunct Senior Fellow at the East-West Center. I am also affiliate faculty with the Certificate Program in International Cultural Studies, and member of the editorial board of Ethos: Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology..

General Interests

The politics and ideology of culture; historical discourse; war memory; culture, self, and emotion; ethnographic methods; Pacific Island societies; America; France.

My teaching includes graduate and undergraduate courses focused on anthropological and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of public culture, particularly in areas critical to the formation of identity and subjectivity ("History and Memory," "Museum Anthropology," Culture, Identity, and Emotion" and "The Anthropology of Tourism"). I also teach courses on ethnographic methods and Pacific Islands societies.

Current Research and Projects

In addition to ongoing work in Santa Isabel, Solomon Islands on topics related to colonial history, cultural policy, and globalization, I have been working on Pacific and American war memory, with particular interest in Pearl Harbor as a site of historical imagination and national identity formation. With initial support from the Wenner-Gren Foundation I have been doing ethnographic research at the USS Arizona Memorial, carried out in cooperation with the National Park Service who operate the Memorial.

I am currently a member of the Board of Directors for Pacific Historic Parks, a nonprofit organization working with the National Park Service overseeing Pacific War historic sites and memorials. Working with these organizations I've assisted with the development of educational programs concerned broadly with teaching about the Pacific War and the politics of war memory. By involving educators from Japan and Asia as well as the U.S., these programs have provided a venue for international dialogue on the problems of remembering and representing past conflicts. From 2004 to 2010 I directed or co-directed a series of summer workshops supported with grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Freeman Foundation, most recently "History and Commemoration: Legacies of the Pacific War" hosted at the East West Center, July 25 - 30 and August 1 - 6, 2010.

Selected Publications

2012 Church, Chiefs and State in Santa Isabel, Solomon Islands. In The Politics of Christianity in Oceania. Matt Tomlinson and Debra McDougall, eds. New York: Berghahn Book. Pp. 171-197.

2012 Civilizations on the Seine: Sally Price’s Paris Primitive. Museum Anthropology Review 6(1).

2011 Education and Commemoration: Notes on the Pearl Harbor Workshops. In Narrating Pearl Harbor: History, Memory, and Education. Yujin Yaguchi, Takeo Morimo, and Kyoko Nakayama, eds. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press (in Japanese)

2011 Solomon Islands Cultural Policy?: A Brief History of Practice. In Social Movements, Cultural Heritage and the State in Oceania. E. Hviding & K.M. Rio, eds. Oxford: Sean Kingston Publishing. Pp. 273-299 (with Lawrence Foana'ota).

2010 Binational Pearl Harbor?: Tora! Tora! Tora! and the Fate of (Trans)national Memory. The Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Vol 8, Issue 52 No 2, December 27, 2010. (with Marie Thorsten)

2010 Disciplining Emotion. Emotion Review 2(4): 375-376.

2010 Conjuring Oceania. The Contemporary Pacific 22(1):108-111.

2008 Forward. We Are the Ocean: Selected Works. Epeli Hau’ofa. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press. Pp ix-xx.

2006 Indigenous Governance in Melanesia. Discussion Paper. State, Society, and Governance in Melanesia Project. Australian National University. 16 pp.

2006 Landscapes of Power: National Memorials and the Domestication of Affect. City & Society 18(1): 50-61.

2006 Memory Moments. In The Immanent  Past: Culture and Psyche at the Juncture of Memory and History, Special Issue edited by K. Birth. Ethos 34(2): 325-341.

2005 Emotive Institutions. In A Companion to Psychological Anthropology: Modernity and Psychocultural Change. C. Casey & R. Edgerton, eds. London: Blackwell. Pp. 241-254.

2004 National Subjects: September 11 and Pearl Harbor. American Ethnologist 31(3).

2003 Pearl Harbor and September 11: War Memory and American Patriotism in the 9-11 Era. In Laura Hein and Daizaburo Yui, eds. Crossed Memories: Perspectives on 9/11 and American Power. Tokyo: Center for Pacific and American Studies, University of Tokyo. Pp. 2-29. published online at Japan Focus; and Znet magazine.

2002 Disney's Pearl Harbor: National Memory at the Movies. The Public Historian 24(4): 97-115.

2001 Public History and Globalization: Ethnography at the USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor. Cultural Resource Management 24(5):9-13.

2001 Perilous Memories: The Asia-Pacific War(s). Durham, NC: Duke University Press. (edited with T. Fujitani and L. Yoneyama).

2000 Voyaging in the Contemporary Pacific. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield (edited with D. Hanlon).

1997 Chiefs Today: Traditional Pacific Leadership and the Postcolonial State. Stanford: Stanford University Press. (edited with L. Lindstrom)

1996 War Remains: The Culture of Preservation in the Southwest Pacific. Cultural Resource Management 24(5):9-13.

1995 Memory Wars: The Politics of Remembering the Asia/Pacific war. East-West Center Issue Paper No. 21 (July)

1994 Culture, Kastom, Tradition: Cultural Policy in Melanesia. Suva, Fiji: University of the South Pacific (edited with L. Lindstrom).

1992 New Directions in Psychological Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (edited with T. Schwartz & C. Lutz).

1991 Identity Through History: Living Stories in a Solomon Islands Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

1990 Island Encounters: Black and White Memories of the Pacific War. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. (co-authored with L. Lindstrom).

1990 Disentangling: Conflict Discourse in Pacific Societies. Stanford: Stanford University Press. (edited with K. Watson-Gegeo).

1989 The Pacific Theater: Island Representations of World War II. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, and Melbourne: University of Melbourne Press (edited with L. Lindstrom; recipient of the 1992 Masayoshi Ohira Prize).

1988 Cheke Holo (Maringe/Hograno) Dictionary. Canberra: ANU Pacific Linguistics, Series C, No. 97 (with F. Kokhonigita and H. Pulomana).

1988 Taem Blong Faet: World War II in Melanesia. Special Issue of 'O'o: Journal of Solomon Islands Studies. No. 4. (Hugh Laracy and Geoffrey White, Editors).

1987 Pacific Encounters: Island Memories of World War II. Honolulu: East-West Center.

1985) Person, Self and Experience: Exploring Pacific Ethnopsychologies. Berkeley: University of California Press (edited with J. Kirkpatrick).

Courses Taught

Anthropology 152 (Introduction to Cultural Anthropology), Spring 2010 Syllabus

This course is an introduction to cultural anthropology. At the heart of anthropology is the concept of culture, the knowledge and practice that people use to make sense of their everyday lives and engage with others. Bound up with the concept of culture is sensitivity to cultural difference and the possibility of alternative ways of perceiving and living in the world. Learning objectives for the course include: 1. Learning to think anthropologically, including an appreciation for issues of diversity and commonality across culture. 2. Developing the ability to think critically about cultural assumptions to assess their effect on our understanding of contemporary issues. 3. Gaining a wider appreciation for the range of cultural difference through the study of the social and cultural dimensions of diverse populations. and 4. Acquiring a basic understanding of the ideas and tools of cultural anthropology

Anthropology 316 (Anthropology of Tourism), Summer 2008 syllabus

What do tourism encounters say about “otherness” in a world where quickening flows of people and images continually threaten to dissolve differences? What are the aesthetics and politics of creating difference in today’s globalized tourism? What is the role of corporations, the state, and host communities in shaping the tourist imagination?  This course poses these questions with special reference to Paris, the world’s most famous tourist destination.

Anthropology 350 (Pacific Islands Cultures), Fall 2011 Syllabus

Anyone living in Hawai‘i ought to become literate with regard to the cultures and histories of Pacific Island societies. Each person living here is part of an ongoing story of movement, settlement, and adaptation to island environments that has produced remarkable histories of cultural accomplishment, political struggle, and environmental transformation. Although relatively small in population, the Pacific Islands span one-third of the globe, encompass about one fourth of the world’s languages, and include some of its most unique ecological zones. The Pacific has been an object of European interest and fantasy since the earliest days of exploration, and continues to generate all kinds of exotic images, whether of paradise, of “disappearing” cultures, or threatened ecologies. This course is concerned both with the experience of indigenous communities and with representations of the Pacific generated inside and outside the region.

Anthropology 408 (History and Memory), Spring 2008 syllabus

This course introduces critical perspectives on collective memory. Using readings, films, and student projects the course takes up issues and debates that surround collective remembering and forgetting, from families to nation-states. Case studies are used to examine memory as an active, value-laden process of reconstruction—a process in which multiple stories about the past contend for recognition, for moral judgment, and emotional impact.

How much do you know about your past? How do you come to have that knowledge and why does it matter? These questions about ordinary memory at the personal level can also be asked of families, communities, and whole nations. How do societies remember? How do they forget? How do nation states use the past to create a sense of a common heritage and future? What are the politics of memory, whether in families, communities, or nations, that lead to systematic remembering and forgetting? Why is it that some forms of collective remembering are surrounded by intense emotions and politics?

The course also considers the fate of memory in an era of instant retrieval, in which the present is saturated with images of the past in television programs, photographs, films, video games and internet sites. As television and film projects take on historical topics, and as historic sites, museums, and memorials become tourist destinations, how is the past transformed as an object of popular consumption?

Anthropology 411 (Museum Anthropology), Spring 2012 syllabus

What sort of place is “the museum” in the new millennium?  How has the idea of the museum traveled across cultures? How do museums function to select and shape the stories that count as national histories? This course will take up these questions by looking closely at different kinds of museum-like places (ethnographic museums, art museums, historic sites, war memorials, theme parks) in different societies, with particular emphasis on museums in Hawai‘i, the Pacific and Asia.

The course explores these questions through case studies and student projects in order to provide students with an opportunity to do their own “ethnography” through fieldwork. Students are encouraged to do their own projects by applying anthropological approaches to the study of museums online and in Hawai‘i.

Anth 424 (Culture, Identity and Emotion [Psychological Anthropology]), Fall 2012 syllabus

How do language and cultural practices shape self understanding and emotional experience? And, conversely, how do cultural formations of self and emotion work to maintain social identities such as gender and ethnicity? This course explores these questions by taking up recent work in cultural and psychological anthropology as well as cultural psychology. By examining local concepts of self and emotion in a number of societies, the comparative approach of these fields calls attention to the role of culture in aspects of psychology commonly regarded as universal and biologically determined. The course looks at the creation of emotional meaning in everyday life with particular attention to the role of life stories and other narrative practices. Overall, the course reflects upon ways in which cultural and ethnographic approaches can expand our understanding of the significance of the "psychological" in society and history.

Anth 608 (History and Memory), Spring 2012 Syllabus

The recognition that histories--stories about the past--play a central role in social movements, national politics, and personal lives has evoked an explosion of interest in the study of collective "memory." This seminar reviews disciplinary paradigms that have been brought to bear on problems of history and memory as culturally formed and politically contested realities. Anthropology, with its orientation toward small scale communities and oral discourse, has focused especially on the role of narrative and ritual practice in shaping representations of the past. Other disciplines have been more concerned with textual and mass-mediated representations of history in(post)industrialized societies.

This course considers work across this spectrum of approaches by considering a number of case studies of memory politics in diverse institutional locations. Specifically, how may the tools of ethnography be used to analyze symbolic and political forces that shape cultural histories and underwrite their power? How and where is collective memory created in today's globalizing societies? In answering these questions the course examines historical representation in specific media, asking how different modes of representation create distinctive forms of historical understanding, including oral narrative, textbooks, film, photographs, architecture, and electronic media. The course also considers a range of institutional sites in which collective histories are made public and authoritative, including commemorative practices, memorials, museums, tourist sites, malls, and popular culture.

Anth 610 (The Anthropology of Tourism), Fall 2011 syllabus

Tourism--that is, temporary and continuing flows of people from one part of the world to another for purposes of pleasure and travel--has come to play an increasingly critical part of the global economy. This course examines tourism in its cultural forms, ideologies and practices. We see tourism as inextricably linked to consumer culture, transnational movements of people and goods, post-colonial politics, and global capitalism. Tourism is an arena for the production of identities bound up with oppositions such as primitive/modern, authentic/inauthentic, self/other. The goal of the course is to explore these phenomena through readings, discussion and original research. Students will design and conduct their own research on tourism and present their findings.

The course involves not only readings, but on-site visits, activities, films, guest lectures, and discussions. Hawai'i affords an opportunity to examine the complex social and cultural conditions of tourism in one of the world’s busiest tourist economies.  

Anth 710 (Seminar in Research Methods: Ethnography), Fall 2012 syllabus

This seminar provides an introduction to ethnographic methods, concentrating on practices of interviewing and recording most used in participatory research. The seminar emphasizes interpretive methods. Much of the learning is through doing. Readings and discussion are combined with a limited amount of ethnographic practice, primarily in the form of various styles of interviewing. Approaches to the study of discourse are emphasized, including the analysis of texts, conversation, interview protocols, and life histories. On the assumption that community-based research requires flexibility and adaptation to local circumstances, the seminar critically examines the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of methods for diverse kinds of research question. Discussion of the politics and ethics of fieldwork inform the seminar's work throughout.