Professor publishes book on the colonization of Hawaii

Kalee Chism

A WKU professor is making waves with her new book “Staking Claim: Settler Colonialism and Racialization in Hawai’i.”

Judy Rohrer, assistant professor of Diversity and Community Studies, recently released “Staking Claim,” a work she said came from her background in Hawaii and her research and studies since.

“The book has come from my history and background; I grew up in Hawaii, and the elementary school that I went to, I was one of the only white girls in my school,” Rohrer said. After going back to grad school in Hawaii, Rohrer said she began thinking about race and colonization, on which she focused her dissertation. Part of the dissertation evolved into “Staking Claim.”

The book takes a more scholarly look at these issues, according to Rohrer, but she also incorporates her own personal story.

“My first book was really targeted at a popular and undergraduate audience; it’s a shorter book,” Rohrer said. “This last book is a more scholarly and academic text.”

“Rohrer’s point in sharing such a story is not to garner sympathy, as throughout the book she is fiercely critical of the ways that haole make false claims to victimhood and innocence in Hawai’i,” Maile Arvin, assistant professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, said in her review of “Staking Claim.” “Instead, she aims to show how such challenges can be productive, and the importance of being open to decentering and orienting one’s self to the world around them.”

The focus of the book is settler colonialism and race in Hawaii, according to Rohrer. She hopes this book will bring more attention to these issues and bring new ideas to the front.

“My hope is that we’ll participate in conversation that will be had across a couple different disciplines, in politics in Hawaii, obviously, but also people who are scholars in indigenous studies and Native American studies,” Rohrer said. “Also, people who work in critical ethnic studies.”

Rohrer said she hopes her book adds to the existing conversation surrounding these topics.

“Staking Claim is a significant contribution to shifting the discourse about race in Hawai‘i to one that is deeply aware and critical of settler colonialism,” Arvin said in her review.

Rohrer says the book has had a very good reception so far. The goal is to make a political shift toward decolonization, she said.

“I am always incorporating the research and scholarship I’m doing in different ways in my classes,” Rohrer said. Though she isn’t planning on assigning it to her undergraduate courses, Rohrer said the research and information will be incorporated into the graduate courses she teaches.

Rohrer has also written in fields of disability studies and LGBT theory. She plans to continue to write on all of these fronts, spreading her ideas about the issues she has researched. Rohrer said she plans to “continue to move on all of those different fronts.”

Reporter Kalee Chism can be reached at 270-746-2655 and [email protected].