Program & Research

MA Students

Indigenous Politics is one of the featured focus areas and formal specializations in the MA program in political science.

By specializing in Indigenous Politics students commit to more in-depth engagement with Indigenous studies as an academic field, as well as with communities who may be outside of the university but are imbricated in the social and political networks with which Indigenous Politics is concerned. Because of our specific location in Hawaiʻi, UHIP takes seriously the kuleana (responsibility and obligations) that we have to the ʻŌiwi communities and lands that allow us to engage in academic study in this place.

Our program allows students to participate in independent and collective inquiry into Indigenous social movements and epistemologies, politically-oriented artistic and narrative works, governing systems and ethics, Indigenous political theory, and praxis. We critically engage notions and practices of sovereignty, self-determination, language, and land use. As an innovative program, we pride ourselves on encouraging the use and development of alternative epistemologies and methodologies that reflect Indigenous worldviews and peoples.

The Political Science MA Program encourages scholarly inquiry and intellectual growth across a range of political themes. Whereas the PhD program is specifically targeted for those who aim to have a professional academic career, the MA program is useful for students who want to pursue careers in public service, the private non-profit and for-profit sectors, grassroots activism, teaching, or other fields. Offering both a thesis-option and an internship-option, the MA program in Indigenous Politics emphasizes community-engaged work and the development of leadership and research skills.

Our MA courses facilitate inquiry into a variety of issues including histories of interaction between Indigenous and settler peoples, the impact of settler colonialism on Indigenous life ways and thought worlds, and Indigenous engagements with states.

Graduate students from a variety of disciplines benefit from introductory and in-depth study of the historical and contemporary dimensions of Indigenous politics. We offer courses at the 600 level specifically for MA students in political science and other departments. While our 700-level courses are targeted at advanced students, usually at the PhD level, they are open to MA students. We recommend that MA students contact the instructor prior to registering for a 700-level course.

Our core faculty have mentored and served as thesis committee members for MA students in Political Science, Anthropology, Education, Sociology, History, Geography, Hawaiian Studies, Hawaiian language, Ethnomusicology and Pacific Studies.


POLS 612 Hawaiian Political Thought: Theory and Method/Nā Manaʻo Politika Hawaiʻi (3 credits)
Study of Hawaiian political thought in writing from ca. 1825 to the present, with emphasis on theory and research methods. Taught in Hawaiian. Prerequisites: 303, HAW 402 and HAW 428; or consent. (Cross-listed as HAW 612)

POLS 620 Introduction to Indigenous Politics (3 credits)
Historical treatment of the contact between state and Indigenous peoples and a survey of contemporary Indigenous political initiatives: social movements, media, Indigenous studies programs, and events. A-F only.

POLS 621 Politics of Indigenous Representation (3 credits)
Politics of Indigenous representations in media, literature, and academic scholarship.

POLS 642 Indigenous Peoples and Western Imperialism (3 credits)
Historical examination of U.S. and European imperialisms, including national narratives, politics, and impacts upon Indigenous peoples in the Americas, Pacific, and Asia. Repeatable one time.

POLS 684 Contemporary Native Hawaiian Politics (3 credits)
Study of political and social movements, political status, national and cultural identities, and issues of representation of Native Hawaiians.

POLS 686 Politics of Hawai‘i (3 credits)
Examinations from several perspectives of the political, economic, and cultural forces that historically formed Hawai'i and contemporary political themes, issues, and processes.

POLS 720 Seminar: Indigenous Theory (3 credits)
Pre–announced topics may include gender and sexuality studies, postcolonial theory, colonial discourse analysis, globalization, historiography; emphasis on Indigenous epistemologies and the work of native scholars. Repeatable one time.

POLS 776 Indigenous Nations and the Problems of Sovereignty (3 credits)
Examines intersections of sovereignty and indigenity from comparative and critical perspectives. Engages indigenous studies of sovereignty and of alternative political frameworks. Repeatable one time. (Taught in alternate years)

POLS 777 Decolonial Futures (3 credits)
Topic engages probable and preferable futures of indigenous struggles and resistances. Emphasis placed on the ethics and responsibilities used to move towards those futures.

Requirements for the MA Specialization in Indigenous Politics

Political Science MA students who select an Indigenous Politics specialization must complete 30 credit hours of coursework, distributed as follows:

  • Three Indigenous Politics courses, intended to ground students in the field of Indigenous political studies;
    • 620, 684, 720
    • 9 Credits
  • Two Political Science courses, intended to give students a sense of the breadth of the field of political studies;
    • 610, 630, 640, 660, 670, 680
    • 6 Credits
  • One “Scope and Methods” or “Research Methods” course (although students are only required to take one methods course, we strongly recommend all students enroll in POLS 600 their first semester, which provides an overview and orientation to the department AND an advanced research methods course, see suggested course schedule for Plan A and Plan B options;
    • 600, 601, 602, 702
    • 3 Credits
  • 12 credits worth of electives (see list below). MA candidates who are writing a thesis (“Plan A”) must enroll in at least 6 credits of thesis research (POLS 700).

Suggested Electives

  • POLS/HWST 612: Nā Manaʻo Politika Hawaiʻi
  • POLS 621: Politics of Indigenous Representation
  • POLS 642: Indigenous Peoples and Western Imperialism
  • POLS 686: Politics of Hawaiʻi
  • POLS 703: Writing Politics
  • POLS 776: Indigenous Nations and the Problems of Sovereignty
  • POLS 777: Decolonial Futures
  • ART 677: Art of Oceania
  • REL 663: Seminar in Polynesian Religions
  • ENG 770: Seminar in Cultural Studies in Asia/Pacific
  • HIST 613: Introduction to Cultural Studies
  • HIST 675: Seminar in Pacific History
  • HIST 677: Seminar in History of Hawaiʻi
  • HWST 601: Indigenous Research Methodologies
  • HWST 602: Hawaiian Archival Research
  • PACS 690: Change in the Pacific

Recommended Course Schedule

Semester 1

  • POLS 600
  • POLS 620
  • POLS 6X0

Semester 2

  • POLS 684
  • POLS 6X0
  • Elective

Semester 3

  • POLS 601 (or equivalent)
  • POLS 720
  • Elective

Semester 4

  • Plan A: POLS 700 thesis writing (6-9 credits)
  • Plan B: Community Internship project POLS 696 (6-9 credits)

See the UHM Catalog for a listing and description of all courses.