Hawai’i ’18

Hawaii Image Mountain

Course Name: ‘Ohana in the U.S.A.: Colonialism and Cultural Identity Development in Hawai’i
Professor: DrAyesha Shaikh & Dr. Becky Overmyer-Velazquez
Credits: 4
Lib Ed.:  Culture 6
GPS [Global Poet Scholarship] Eligible: No (not international travel)
Cost/Fees: $1500 (estimated)

Travel dates: 6/7/18 – 6/18/18

All majors are welcome to apply! Early applications are highly encouraged!


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Our social and political worlds have been shaped by conquest and domination, which have significant implications for our individual psychological development as well as our collective cultural identities. This course uses Hawai’i as a case study to explore the concept of historical trauma, which is the trauma experienced over generations by entire groups of people subjected to social, political and cultural domination. ‘Ohana denotes the Hawaiian identity, which is based on reciprocal rights and obligations within a larger community or family. What happens to ‘ohana and the individuals that make up that collective within a colonized society such as Hawai’i in the USA? In addition to learning about the sociology of colonization, the course will examine psychological theories of cultural identity development. The course will highlight the perspectives of Native Hawaiians themselves through a variety of cultural immersion experiences on the island of Oahu. Students will visit the Polynesian Cultural Center, the Bishop Museum, and the Iolani Palace, among other cultural sites, and will have the opportunity to learn from and volunteer with a local non-profit organization working with Native Hawaiians. Students will also apply theories of cultural identity development to themselves to enhance their own self-understanding.


King Kamehameha Image

“King Kamehameha Day Lei Draping Ceremony Hawaii” Anthony Quintano CC 2.0 License

Hawai’i is a very good example of a colonized society within the United States. While Hawai’i is now a state within the US, it retains much of the cultural distinctiveness that comes from its historical origins as a Hawaiian kingdom. This location allows for students to  immersively learn about how cultural identity is shaped within a colonized society without the challenges involved in international travel. Moreover, using the Hawai’i case in particular for our exploration of the legacies of colonialism on racial and cultural identity development will help students better understand these issues more personally and poignantly. While we could teach students about culture at a distance, an immersive learning experience will enable them to appreciate cultural identity development in a more in-depth and complex way.

A picture of Waikiki on the island of oahu


Sample of Activities


  • Visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center
  • Participation in a Luau
  • Bishop Museum
  • Tour of Iolani Palace
  • North Shore
  • Living in Waikiki
  • Other cultural sites
  • Volunteer with local non-profit organization
  • 2 free days in Hawaii to travel, relax, and reflect on identities and experiences
Course requirements
Costs and Fees
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