Learnscapes on Kauaʻi: Education at a Hawaiian-focused Charter School, a Food Sovereignty Movement, and the Agricultural Biotechnology Industry

Mascha Anth Talk


Mascha Gugganig

PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at UBC

Practice Dissertation Defense


When: Thursday August 4, 2016

Time: 11:30AM – 1:00PM

Where: Anthropology and Sociology Building – ANSO 2107 (Conference Room)



This dissertation interrogates the different forms of life that education takes at a Hawaiian-focused charter school, a food sovereignty movement, and the agricultural biotechnology industry on Kauaʻi. As ethnographic researcher, I approached Kauaʻi about 15 years after three developments had commenced: the establishment of Hawaiian-focused charter schools to provide education on Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) culture, language and history, a “New Economy” resulting in a shift in agriculture towards researching and developing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and a burgeoning social movement concerned about GMOs. Following these developments, I argue that, often in overlapping ways, education as a term and transinstitutional practice has populated social, cultural and scientific discourses beyond the school; firstly as means of self-determination for Indigenous educators, who move instruction onto the ʻāina (land) and into the public sphere; secondly, as democratic right for concerned citizens calling fellows out to “educate yourself” on contested food technologies; and thirdly, among scientists and industrialists as corrective effort of public misconceptions of biotechnology – by “educating the public.” Through the concept of learnscapes, I probe what it means for high school students to learn to be young Kānaka Maoli, about ʻāina (land), aloha (love, affection), and ʻohana (family) while navigating the continually pressing issues of remediation and recovery for land, people and one’s culture. Situated in the anthropology of education and science & technology studies (STS), this dissertation furthers scholarship on everyday expertise by elucidating how young Kānaka Maoli as much as citizens concerned with GMOs are knowledge-able social experts, and that attention to education is crucial to such analyses.