Program & Research

PhD Students

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa proudly offers an internationally recognized program of doctoral study in comparative Indigenous politics. Students participate in independent and collective inquiry into a range of topics and using a range of approaches.

Our graduate learning community takes on such issues as Indigenous political theory and praxis, social movements and governing systems, politically-oriented artistic and narrative works, food and futures, and epistemologies and ethics. As an innovative program, we pride ourselves on encouraging the use and development of alternative epistemologies and methodologies that reflect Indigenous worldviews and peoples. We also prepare students to engage non-Indigenous intellectual discourses. We nurture and expect students to develop multiple fluencies that allow them to navigate and be accountable to the communities of their choosing—both within and beyond the academy. 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.

Students who are admitted to the PhD program have the opportunity to work with a diverse group of core and affiliate faculty. The core faculty provides expertise in Indigenous histories of resistance, contemporary social movements, language revitalization, sustainable self-determination, political theory, education, settler colonialism, intellectual history, and research methods. Affiliate faculty members add to the richness of the UHIP PhD program by providing expertise and mentorship in fields such as Anthropology, English, History, Public Health, Law, Environmental Studies, Geography, Hawaiian Studies, and Hawaiian language.

The PhD program in Political Science is specifically targeted for those who aim for a professional academic career. However, our PhD graduates also work in positions of leadership in government, educational administration, community outreach services and more.

PhD Requirements

Students in the PhD program are required to take three semesters of full–time course work, after which there is a formal evaluation by the entire Political Science faculty. This evaluation is intended to support students and assure close and strong mentoring. Upon entry to the PhD program students are assigned a temporary advisor, however PhD students are also urged to select a primary advisor, or chair, as early as possible, since appropriate course work is to be determined by the student with guidance from her or his advisor.

Students who are admitted into the PhD program without a MA from our department or comparable academic training are strongly advised to take the core courses required for the master’s degree in Indigenous Politics during their first year in the program. These include POLS 600, POLS 620, POLS 684 and POLS 720 as well as two additional political science core courses (POLS 610, 630, 640, 650, 660, 670, and 680) if they have not taken these or their equivalents at the master's level. During the second semester students will meet with their advisor to plan additional course work tailored to their dissertation topic. Included in this plan should be an advanced research methods course. Each student must also construct a committee that includes at least three members of the department and one external member who can serve as the University representative.

After a student successfully progresses through an acceptable amount of coursework—mutually agreed upon by the student and her or his chair—the student must successfully defend their dissertation proposal and pass comprehensive exams in order to advance to PhD candidacy. The dissertation chair assists the student in establishing a work plan for the proposal writing and comprehensive exam preparations.


POLS 612 Hawaiian Political Thought: Theory and Method/Nā Manaʻo Politika Hawai‘i (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 Hawaiʻi 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.