academic, activist, teacher, scholar
Staking Claim: Settler Colonialism & Racialization in Hawai’i
The University of Arizona Press (May 2016)
Hawai’i exists at global crosscurrents between indigeneity and race, homeland and diaspora, nation and globalization, sovereignty and imperialism. This book recognizes this and works to expose how racialization is employed in settler colonial processes to obscure, with the ultimate goal of eliminating, native Hawaiian indigeneity, homeland, nation and sovereignty. On a broader level it exposes fault-lines in dominant narratives of U.S. exceptionalism and colorblind ideology. Staking Claim argues that the racialization of Hawaiians and the indigenization of non-Hawaiians work concurrently to enable the staking of non-Hawaiian claims to Hawai’i. This matters because the better we understand how settler colonialism works, the more effective we will be in decolonization.
Queering the Biopolitics of Citizenship in the Age of Obama
Palgrave Macmillan (September 2014)
This project draws from the interdisciplinary fields of queer theory, critical race theory, feminist political theory, disability studies, and indigenous studies to analyze contemporary machinations of governmentality and biopolitics in the (re)production of the proper citizen.
The text analyzes how dominant citizenship narratives are being reinforced through: colorblind notions of a postracial nation (including a reinscription of the myth of meritocracy); resurgent American exceptionalism; emphasis on civil rights claims by gays and lesbians; and a focus on reproductive futurity. It demonstrates how these narratives suture (proper) citizenship to blood logics and heterosexual reproduction as they work to reinscribe a coherent story of U.S. national progress. The threads used in that suturing are conceptions of normalcy structured by biopolitics, the governmental regulation of human life categorized as populations.
Haoles in Hawai’i
University of Hawai’i Press (August 2010)
Haoles in Hawai‘i strives to make sense of haole (white person/whiteness in Hawai‘i). Recognizing it as a form of American whiteness specific to Hawai‘i, the text argues that haole was forged and reforged over two centuries of colonization and needs to be understood in that context. Haole reminds us that race is about more than skin color as it identifies a certain amalgamation of attitude and behavior that is at odds with Hawaiian and local values and social norms. By situating haole historically and politically, the text asks readers to think about ongoing processes of colonization and possibilities for reformulating the meaning of haole.
Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and More
Academic Articles & Book Chapters
Scouting for Normalcy: Merit Badges, Cookies and American Futurity
Chapter in LGBTQ Politics: A Critical Reader, Marla Brettshneider, Susan Burgess, and Cricket Keating, eds., NYU Press (forthcoming)
This chapter explores the histories of the Boy and Girl Scouts and how they tie to contemporary firestorms over gender and sexual normativity. Utilizing queer theory, culture, and activism, I analyze existing and possible modes of playful resistance to scouting’s normativity. I argue that fun and fantasy--especially as practiced via irony, parody and camp--has been, and can be, a critical part of thinking queerly through the politics of futurity. From queer merit badges, to camp parodies, to scouting-themed gay male porn, to cub scout drag kings, I scout (out) alternative strategies and visions for American futurity that push beyond arguments for inclusion of the “good” gay scout/citizen.
Enabling Intersectional Theory: Narrating the Messy Beginnings of Disability Awareness
Praxis (formerly Phoebe) (23:1): 31-43 (Spring 2011)
Grounded in critical race studies, intersectional theory comes from a field that values narrative, a field that courageously brings stories into legal discourses. Intersectionality has traveled, more or less successfully, into other areas but is often divorced from narrativity. In this essay I attempt to bring the two back together to assist in exploring the beginnings of my disability awareness. I bring the two into conversation by juxtaposing journal entries with some information about disability that they help illuminate.
Black Presidents, Gay Marriages, and Hawaiian Sovereignty: Reimagining Citizenship in the Age of Obama
American Studies 50(3/4): 107-130 [journal back dated to Fall/Winter 2009 but published 2011] (Sept. 2011)
On November 4, 2008 we elected the first African American/biracial/nonwhite president, Prop 8 outlawed gay marriage in California, and Hawai’i rose in national prominence as the childhood home of the new President. These three election moments offer productive sites for thinking about how citizenship in this country has long been (re)produced through the violences and exclusions that establish normalcy. This article explores the ways dominant narratives regarding citizenship are being reinforced through colorblind notions of a postracial nation (including a reinscription of the myth of meritocracy), an emphasis on civil rights claims by gays and lesbians, and resurgent American exceptionalism and assimilationist narratives.
Attacking Trust: Hawai’i as a Crossroads and Kamehameha Schools in the Crosshairs
American Quarterly 62(3): 437-455. Special issue “Alternative Contact: Indigeneity, Globalism, and American Studies,” Paul Lai and Lindsay Claire Smith, eds. (September 2010)
This issue of American Quarterly received a Special Recognition award at the American Studies Association awards ceremony in Nov. 2011
American law in particular, renders indigenous claims inarticulable by racializing native peoples, while simultaneously normalizing white subjectivity through invocation of a colorblind ideology. This is played out in the frictions surrounding lawsuits against native Hawaiian entitlements. This article will look at recent litigation and political mobilization aimed at forcing Kamehameha Schools to eliminate the admissions preference it gives Kanaka Maoli (native Hawaiian) students. Kamehameha Schools was founded in 1887 for the purpose of benefiting Kanaka Maoli youth. The attacks against Kamehameha Schools can be understood in the context of a recent discourse that represents all Kanaka Maoli preferences or entitlements as illegal racial preference, rather than part of efforts toward native recovery from the violences of colonization.
Mestiza, Hapa haole, and Oceanic Borderspaces: Genealogical Rearticulations of Whiteness in Hawai’i
borderlands 9 (1):1-27 (July 2010)
This article is part of a larger project in which I analyze haole (whiteness and white people in Hawai‘i) as a neocolonial American form of situated whiteness. Here I explore some possible elements of a genealogical stance toward haole, understanding genealogy both in the indigenous sense of connection to people and place with its temporal and spatial fluidity, and in the poststructuralist sense of remaining attentive to our will to power, cautious of truth claims, and privileging of nondominant perspectives.
‘The Marrying Kind?:’ Intersectional Ambivalence from the Borderlands of Gay Marriage
Sapphists, Sexologists and Sexualities: Lesbian Histories Vol. II, Mary McAuliffe, ed. (Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing), 106-127 (Jan. 2009)
This chapter asks not just how it is that marriage has come to monopolize gay politics, but also how that phenomenon is productive of certain ambivalences among particular queers. What might we learn by centering those anxieties, by beginning to think through the questions they raise and taking them seriously rather than discounting or denigrating them? In other words, what can we learn by leaving the limiting binary framework of the dominant discourse and investigating the borderlands of gay marriage?
‘We say Code Pink’: Feminist Direct Action and the ‘War on Terror’
Feminism and War: Confronting U.S. Imperialism, Chandra T. Mohanty, Minnie Bruce Pratt, and Robin Riley, eds. (London: Zed Press, 2008), 224-231 (Dec. 2008)
Feminist anti-war/peace activists incorporate feminist principles into their direct action in creative and effective ways. They are not just protesting injustice, but modeling the world they want to inhabit. Use of irony, humanization, humility, and vulnerability characterize their actions, and differentiate them from more militant, masculinist anti-war organizing. In this chapter I think strategically about this activism, to encourage critique, but more importantly to facilitate its continued development and our involvement.
Disrupting the ‘Melting Pot:’ Racial Discourse in Hawai’i and the ‘Victimized’ Haole
Ethnic and Racial Studies 31 (6):1110-1125 (Sept. 2008)
This article analyzes two dominant discourses of racial politics in Hawai'i and the work they do naturalizing haole (white people or whiteness in Hawai'i) in the islands. The first is the well-worn discourse of racial harmony representing Hawai'i as an idyllic racial paradise. There is also a competing discourse of discrimination against non-locals that contends that haoles and non-local people of color are disrespected and treated unfairly. As negative referents for each other, these discourses work to reinforce one another and are historically linked. I suggest that the question of racial politics be reframed towards consideration of the processes of racialization themselves - towards a new way of thinking about racial politics in Hawai'i that breaks free of the not racist/racist dyad.
‘Got Race?’: The Production of Haole and the Distortion of Indigeneity in the Rice Decision
The Contemporary Pacific 18 (1):1-31 (Spring 2006)
This article is part of a larger project that explores haole (white people, foreigners) as a colonial form of whiteness in Hawai'i. I use the recent Supreme Court decision in Harold F. Rice v Benjamin J. Cayetano, 528 US 495 (2000), as an entry point into the interrogation of haole. The Rice case illustrates how Western law renders indigenous claims inarticulable by racializing native peoples, while simultaneously normalizing white subjectivity by insisting on a color-blind ideology. The inherent contradiction in these two positions—race matters/race does not matter—is played out in the frictions surrounding the Rice decision and is evidence of the cracks in the hegemony of Western law that complicate any easy binary of colonizer–colonized.
Toward a Full-Inclusion Feminism: A Feminist Deployment of Disability Analysis
Feminist Studies 31 (1):34-63 (Spring 2005)
This article is a feminist exploration of disability studies and the movement that gave it birth. I explore possible paths toward feminist theorizing and praxis that are inclusive of disability. These paths offer expanded theoretical landscapes and additional tools for use in feminist social justice struggles. I begin by briefly sketching the context in which we find ourselves as U.S. citizens, scholars, and activists since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the founding of the Society for Disability Studies. I then focus on a few illustrative theoretical tools and sites of feminist inquiry and activism that are deepened and challenged through the deployment of disability analysis: simultaneity, irony, interdependence, body politics, and “choice.”
Haole Girl: Identity and White Privilege in Hawai'i
Social Process in Hawai'i 38:138-161 (1997)
This article is about what it means to be a white person in Hawai’i, what it means to be a haole. Hawai’i’s ethnically mixed population and history as an independent kingdom colonized by the U.S. make being a white person here a completely different experience than anywhere else in the country. In Hawai’i, white does not blend in, it stands out. I have struggled with my haole identity, mostly trying to figure out how to minimize, disguise, or get rid of it altogether. I have tried hard to be anything but “da haole girl.” Instead of continuing to try to escape, I decided to face it through research and writing.
Public Scholarship & Media
Settler Colonialism in Hawai’i, Interview with Dean Saranillio and J. Kēhaulani Kauanui (host) on Indigenous Politics radio
May 10, 2013
Bio & CV
Judy Rohrer is a theorist with expertise in a number of fields that animate critical interdisciplinary scholarship: feminist studies, queer studies, indigenous studies, critical race theory, critical ethnic studies, and disability studies. She grew up in Hawai’i and earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. Her B.A. is from Bryn Mawr College. Before and during her graduate studies Rohrer worked for progressive nonprofits in Hawai’i and the San Francisco Bay Area. From 2013 – 2016 she was the Director of the Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility (ICSR) at Western Kentucky University. She is currently an Assistant Professor in Diversity & Community Studies at Western Kentucky University.
Rohrer’s first book, Haoles in Hawai’i, was published in 2010 through the University of Hawai’i Press. The text strives to make sense of the politics of haole (whiteness in Hawai’i) in current debates about race and colonization in Hawai’i. It has been used in a number of undergraduate classes in American Studies, Ethnic Studies, Sociology, Political Science, and Anthropology. Queering the Biopolitics of Citizenship in the Age of Obama is a short monograph released in 2014 through Palgrave MacMillan. It furthers an evolving discussion of what it means to be an American citizen in the Obama era and demonstrates the importance of developing an understanding of the machinations of governmentality and biopolitics in the (re)production of the (proper) citizen. Rohrer’s latest book, Staking Claim: Race and Indigeneity in Hawaiʻi, was released in spring 2016 through The University of Arizona Press. In it, Rohrer argues that the dual settler colonial processes of racializing native Hawaiians (erasing their indigeneity), and indigenizing non-Hawaiians, enable the staking of non-Hawaiian claims to Hawai’i.
Judy Rohrer has also published on race and colonization in Hawai’i, gay marriage, disability studies, and citizenship in Racial & Ethnic Studies, borderlands, Feminist Studies, The Contemporary Pacific, American Studies, and American Quarterly.
Judy Rohrer is a member of the American Studies Association (ASA), National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA), and Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA). She regularly attends their annual conferences as well as others in her fields (see CV for full listing). Listed below are invited public presentations.
Upcoming Conferences & Invited Public Presentations
Past Invited Public Presentations
Nov 2016 “Staking Claim: Discourses of Settler Colonialism in Hawai’i” (paper), Refusing to Settle: Disrupting the Logics of Settler Colonialism (panel sponsored by the North American Asian Feminists Caucus), National Women’s Studies Association Conference, Montreal
Nov 2016 “Mestiza Consciousness, Cultural Appropriation, and Kuleana: Unsettling ‘Home’ in Hawai’i” (paper), The Legacies of Gloria Anzaldúa for Theorizing Home (panel), American Studies Association Conference, Denver
Sept. 2016 “Staking Claim: Settler Colonialism and Racialization in Hawai’i,” Political Science Department, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, Honolulu
Sept. 2016 “Genealogies, Kuleana, and Unstaking Settler Colonial Claims to Hawai’i,” Center for Biographical Research, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, Honolulu
Apr. 2016 Invited presentation with Lisa Kahaleole Hall as part of “Pacific Climate Currents” working group, Center for the Study of Social Difference, Columbia University
Sept. 2013 “The Ballot or the Bullet (remix): Black Voter Suppression and Premature Death,” Third Tuesday Tea, Institute for Citizenship & Social Responsibility, Western Kentucky University
April 2013 “Going to the Ocean: Unstaking Settler Colonialism in Hawai’i,” (paper); Settler Colonialism in Hawai’i (panel), Center for the Americas, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT
April 2013 “California’s Prop 8 and the Production of Proper Families,” Feminist Studies department, Southwestern University, Georgetown TX
April 2013 “Staking Claim: Race and Indigeneity in Hawai’i,” (paper); Shared Histories?: Asian American, Native American, and Indigenous Studies seminar series, Native American & Indigenous Studies and Asian American Studies departments, UT, Austin
Nov. 2011 “Homonationals, Homonormals, & Healthy Children: Prop 8 and ‘The Importance of Being Ordinary,’” (paper); Women’s Studies Program Spotlight on Faculty seminar series, University of Connecticut
Jan. 2011 “Homonationals, Homonormals, & Healthy Children: Prop 8 and ‘The Importance of Being Ordinary,’” (paper); Singing, Writing, Legislating Kinship: Decolonizing Desire in the Caribbean, Britain and the U.S. (panel); BBRG seminar series, UC Berkeley
Jan. 2011 “Haoles in Hawai’i,” Center for Biographical Research, University of Hawai’i, Honolulu
Jan. 2011 “Haoles in Hawai’i,” Windward Community College, Kaneohe, HI
Oct. 2010 “Paradise Lost: Tales of Colonial Oppression and Resistance in Hawai’i,” International Studies Seminar Series, Illinois State University, Normal
Feb. 2009 “What do you mean ‘We’ White Professor?: Thinking about Teaching about Race,” Faculty Spotlight Series, College of Arts and Sciences, Texas Woman’s University, Denton, TX
May 2008 “The Marrying Kind?: Intersectional Ambivalence in the Borderlands of Gay Marriage,” Conversations for Change Lecture Series, Center for Research on Women & Social Change, UC Santa Barbara
Jan. 2007 “The Marrying Kind?: Reflections from the Borderlands of Gay Marriage,” Women’s Studies Seminar Series, Syracuse University
Mar. 2006 “’So, did you get Married?!’: Reflections from the Borderlands of Queer Marriage,” Joint Politics Department and Women’s Studies Lecture for International Women’s Day, University of Limerick, Ireland
“Toward a Full-Inclusion Feminism: A Feminist Deployment of Disability Analysis”
Feb. 2006 Department of Sociology Spring Seminar Series, National University of Ireland, Maynooth
Feb. 2006 Women’s Studies Seminar, University College Cork, Ireland
Feb. 2004 University of California Berkeley Disability Studies Brown-bag Lecture Series