Research

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I am, by training, an environmental historian and public historian.

I received a Master of Arts degree in Public History from the State University of New York at Albany in 2007. While there, I studied with environmental historian Kendra Smith-Howard and wrote an MA Thesis on the historical encounters between Schenectady-based scientists (particularly those affiliated with the General Electric Corporation) and New York’s Adirondack Mountains.

In 2009 I moved to New York City to begin studying environmental history at the State University of New York at Stony Brook with Christopher Sellers, Jared Farmer, and other members of the faculty. My doctoral dissertation focused on nineteenth-century Hawaiʻi and the Hawaiian Islands’ place within larger transoceanic economic and ecological contexts. It was specifically a transoceanic labor history focused on the life experiences of Native Hawaiian migrant workers. I was grateful while in New York City to study ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi—the Hawaiian language—with an incredible teacher, Manuwai Peters. I additionally completed my doctoral language examination in written Chinese. In 2014-2015 I received an ACLS/Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellowship and subsequently defended my dissertation. “Hawaiians Who Left Hawaiʻi: Work, Body, and Environment in the Pacific World, 1786-1876” won both the 2016 Rachel Carson Prize for Best Dissertation from the American Society for Environmental History and the 2016 Constance Coiner Award for Best Dissertation from the Working Class Studies Association.

In addition to my dissertation, I have published a number of scholarly articles in Pacific environmental and labor history. I have written about Hawaiian sandalwood as a globally-circulating commodity; about the shared experiences of migrant workers and migratory birds on equatorial guano islands; about working-class environmental experiences of the nineteenth-century Pacific; also, an environmental microhistory of a nineteenth-century Pacific Ocean cyclone; and soon-to-be-published, a longue durée history of Polynesian migrations, diasporas, and transoceanic trade. These publications all reflect my interests at the intersections of labor and working-class history, trans-Pacific environmental history, and the parallels between nineteenth-century and twenty-first-century narratives of capitalist accumulation, Indigenous dispossession and resistance, proletarian environmentalisms, cosmopolitan experiences of migration and diaspora, and economic and ecological globalization.

In 2018 I was proud to announce publication of my first book, Beyond Hawaiʻi: Native Labor in the Pacific World, published by the University of California Press.

My most recent work returns to my roots in public history. In 2015 I moved to Roanoke, Virginia to begin employment as Assistant Professor of Public History at Roanoke College. In September 2015, I co-founded the Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project, a community-based queer public history project. My article about the project, “Make Roanoke Queer Again,” examined the intersections among urban history, queer history, and public history and, in 2018, received Honorable Mention for the G. Wesley Johnson Award (for the best article published in The Public Historian) from the National Council on Public History. Additionally, the Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project received Honorable Mention for the 2018 Allan Bérubé Prize (for outstanding work in public or community-based LGBTQ history) from the Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender History, American Historical Association. 

I am currently finishing a new book on queer history and memory, focused on the experiences of LGBTQ people in Roanoke, Virginia where I live. The book is tentatively titled Living Queer History: Remembrance and Belonging in a Southern City. 

My latest article, “How to Become a Woman,” historicizes trans womanhoods in the 1970s and 1980s in Roanoke, and is part of a ground-breaking special issue on Southern women’s histories marking the centennial of women’s suffrage in the United States.

In addition to these projects, I have also written over a dozen op-eds, encyclopedia articles, book and film reviews, and contributed to public history projects. For more information, please see my curriculum vitae.

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