Engaged Learning

Maui Ethnographic Field School

The Maui Ethnographic Field School, run by Professor Susan Russell, has several objectives. First, the school has been established in order to develop relationships with local communities of native Hawaiians, Filipinos, Portuguese, and other Asian and Pacific Americans. In order to train anthropology field school students in ethnographic methods and oral history that will help preserve each ethnic community's unique heritage and history, an overriding goal is to conduct mutually desired and useful research.

Second, the field school is designed to provide an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to enhance their understanding of the diverse ethnic communities in Maui, their history and culture, and their contribution to Hawaii's cultural mosaic. Third, a central academic goal is to prepare students to conduct a variety of ethnographic techniques, including participant observation, collaborative inquiry, life histories, structured and open-ended interviews, and ethnohistorical analysis of secondary documents. The issues of ethics and ethnographic writing style will be an important training focus as well.

The field school focuses on the Filipino American community in Maui. Maui is the homeland of many native Hawaiians, the original Polynesian occupants of Hawaii. Filipinos are one of the earliest groups of Asians to immigrate to Maui, together with large numbers of Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, and other Pacific Rim peoples. Many of these peoples came to Maui originally to work on ships or on plantations.

During the fieldwork period, students will cooperate with local residents to produce ethnographic research on the experience of contemporary Filipino Americans who work on a pineapple plantation in Central Maui. Students will conduct several kinds of ethnographic studies on this topic, including archival research on the journalistic representation of Hawaiians, Filipinos and other immigrant groups in Maui's early 20th century history; personal, in-depth interviews with Filipino Americans; and observational studies of on-going ethnic festivals that celebrate the rich Asian and Pacific American diversity of Maui's population. In addition, students will read a selection of anthropological fieldwork articles and monograph excerpts, as well as a monograph that discusses Maui's unique history and heritage so as to situate the contemporary plantation economy and workers into the larger mosaic of ethnic diversity in Hawaii.