Race and Indigeneity in the Pacific

Graphic for Race and Indigeneity in the Pacific course

Fall 2017

HUM 370 / ASAM 303 / AFAM 380

Professors Hiʻilei Julia Hobart and Nitasha Sharma

Tu/Th 2:00-3:20pm (fulfills Distros III & IV); 15 student enrollment cap

*There are no prerequisites for this course. This class is not open to first year students.

Course description

Since the so-called Age of Discovery, the Pacific has been conceptualized as a crossroads between the East and the West. By the twentieth century, places like Hawaiʻi came to be idealized as a harmonious multicultural society. This class examines how race and indigeneity are constructed within the Pacific using an interdisciplinary approach. Drawing from works within indigenous studies, ethnic studies, and critical race studies, students will address themes of sovereignty, settler colonialism, diaspora, and migration in order to interrogate and problematize the concept of the multicultural ‘melting pot’ across time. We focus on the impacts of U.S. plantation economies, militarism, and tourism in shaping the triangulation of indigenous, Black, and Asian groups in Hawai‘i and across the Pacific.

Required Materials

The course reader will be available at Quartet Copies. Readings and films are also available on Canvas.


Participation in class discussion, including presentation of readings and group work; regular written responses to assigned readings; writing assignment, and a final research project related to the class trip to Hawai'i (8-10 pp, see below). Students will also present their research at a symposium at the end of the quarter.

Week-long Excursion to Hawai‘i

Where and when

This course meets for the duration of the fall quarter, and includes a mandatory class trip to Honolulu, Hawaiʻi the week before fall classes begin. The dates of the trip will be September 10-17, 2017, departing on the day of Sunday, September 10, and returning the following Sunday, September 17 (fall classes begin Tuesday, September 19). Please check your calendar to be sure that you are available to travel the week prior to fall classes before applying to this course! Applying to this course is a commitment to travel to Hawaiʻi.

*Because this trip overlaps with Wildcat Welcome and orientation, first year students are not eligible for this course.


Roundtrip airfare from Chicago to Honolulu, as well as shared-room lodging in Honolulu, activity fees, and ground transportation, will be provided directly by Northwestern. Students will be responsible for all other expenses associated with the trip, including meals and other incidentals.

Financial aid

All undergraduate students (excepting first year students) are welcome to apply for this course, regardless of their financial means.

Required travel documents

Students must have a valid U.S. State ID or passport (for international students) in order to make this trip. Identification must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the end date of the trip.

Commitment to course

The Kaplan Institute considers the act of applying to this course a binding commitment to participate in the class trip to Honolulu. If a participant is accepted and enrolls in the course and later drops, or drops out of the trip, except under extreme medical circumstances, that student will be responsible for reimbursing costs related to their travel, including airfare, lodging, and any other related expenses.

This trip is co-sponsored by the Office of the Dean of Weinberg College, the Indigenous Studies Research Initiative, the Kaplan Humanities Institute, and the Departments of American Studies, African American Studies, and Asian American Studies.

How to Apply

The deadline to apply for this course is May 10th. We will inform applicants of the decision by May 14th (registration opens on May 15th). Once we inform you of your acceptance, we will provide you with a permission code to enroll in the course.

Criteria for selection include qualities of intellectual curiosity, academic excellence, and maturity.

Applications are submitted via an online application portal. Please note that the application portal is adapted from a faculty search tool, so don't be surprised to see “faculty search" references on the application, as well as some seemingly odd questions! Please review all application instructions prior to clicking through to the application portal as you will not be able to save an incomplete application. All application documents must be submitted in PDF format only.

Application Portal Link


In the Application Portal, please complete the following:

  • APPLICATION DOCUMENTS. Please upload PDF files only for the following:
    • Brief Personal Statement: Please attach a one page, single spaced explanation for why you would like to take this class. Include possible research topics that you may be interested in pursuing.
    • Unofficial copy of your transcript (please upload this to field "Additional Materials")