CPIS Director, Acting DPIS Chair and Associate Professor
PhD University of Chicago (2006)
Moore Hall 210
Alexander Mawyer is an associate professor for Pacific Islands Studies, editor of The Contemporary Pacific: A Journal of Island Affairs, and codirector of the University of Hawai‘i’s Biocultural Initiative of the Pacific. He has served as the director for the Center for Pacific Islands Studies since August 2021. He has conducted fieldwork with the Mangarevan community in the Gambier and Society Islands of French Polynesia and with Chuukese and Mortlock communities in the Federated States of Micronesia. His work has focused on language at the intersection of culture, nature, and history. He served as one of the coeditors of Varua Tupu: New Writing from French Polynesia, the first anthology of Ma‘ohi literature to appear in English and 2007 winner of the Hawai‘i Book Publishers Award for Excellence in Literature. His publications cover a diverse range of topics including coediting a special issue of Ethos: Journal for the Society for Psychological Anthropology devoted to culture and spatial cognition in Oceania. More recently, he has published on the semantics of natural kinds and landscape terms in Eastern Polynesian languages including forests, insular fresh waters, Tahitian practices of marine resource governance, and issues of conservation and sovereignty. Recently he was invited to serve as an adviser to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) West Hawai‘i Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA).
Teaching areas and interests
Language and culture in Oceania
Moving images of the Pacific Islands
Topics in biocultural diversity
Humans and island environments
Anthropology of place and space
Anthropology of science
Research areas and interests
Nature, language, and culture
Coastal and marine resource governance
Conservation and community agency
History as disruptive social practice
Legacies of French nuclear testing in the Pacific
Language, space, and place
Language conservation and documentation
Encounters in the 18th and 19th century Pacific
Land tenure and the historical anthropology of 19th century Hawai‘i
Japanese public culture
- 2018 Sovereignty, Conservation, and Ecological Futures (with Jerry Jacka). Environmental Conservation. Forthcoming.
- 2018 Introduction: Rivers as Ethnographic Subject (with John Wagner, Edvard Hviding, Jerry Jacka, and Marama Muru-Lanning). In In Island Rivers: Freshwater, Place, and Environment in Oceania, edited by John Wagner and Jerry Jacka. Forthcoming, ANU Press.
- 2018 Unflowing Pasts, Lost Springs and Watery Mysteries in Eastern Polynesia. In In Island Rivers: Freshwater, Place, and Environment in Oceania, edited by John Wagner and Jerry Jacka. Forthcoming, ANU Press.
- 2018 COFA: Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia; Chuuk and Post-Storm Aid; and Language, Law, and Sovereignty. In Aid and the Inverse Sovereignty Effect in the Pacific, edited by Gerard Prinsen and John Overton. Forthcoming, Routledge.
- 2017 Review of “An Emerging ‘Islandian’ Sovereignty of Non-Self-Governing Islands,” by Gerard Prinsen and Séverine Blaise. International Journal 72 (1): 56-78.
- 2017 Review of Moruroa, le grand secret, directed by Michel Daëron. Journal of Pacific History 52 (1): 114-115.
- 2017 Review of The Southern Cook Islands Customary Law, History and Society, by Ron Crocombe and Ross Holmes. The Contemporary Pacific 29 (1): 204-207.
- 2016 Introduction: Navigation and Spatial Relationships in Oceania (with Rick Feinberg and Cathy Pyrek). Structure and Dynamics 9 (1): 1-7.
- 2016 Response to Nash on Creole Spatiality and Pitcairn Island (with Rick Feinberg). ETHOS: Journal for the Society for Psychological Anthropology 44 (1): 9-10.
- 2016 The State of Mana, The Mana of the State. In New Mana: Transformations of a Classic Concept in Pacific Languages and Cultures, edited by Matt Tomlinson and Ty P Kāwika Tengan, 203-236. Acton, ACT: ANU Press.
- 2016 Uncanny Rights and the Ambiguity of State Authority in the Gambier Islands. In The Rahui: Legal Pluralism and Environment in Polynesian Traditional Management of Resources and Territories, edited by Tamatoa Bambridge, 211-226. Acton, ACT: ANU Press.
- 2016 Militarism and Nuclear Testing in the Pacific (with Monica C LaBriola, Joseph H Genz, Noelani Goodyear-Kaʻōpua, Elicita N Morei, and John P Rosa, J P). Teaching Oceania Series, volume 1. Honolulu: Center for Pacific Islands Studies.
- 2015 Wildlands, Deserted Bays and Other Bushy Metaphors of Pacific Place. In Tropical Forests of Oceania: Anthropological Perspectives, edited by Joshua A Bell, Paige West, and Colin Filer, 23-50. Acton, ACT: ANU Press.
- 2015 Grandmothers, Sharks and Other Dangerous Things: Persistent Crises in Mangareva, French Polynesia. In At Home and In the Field: Ethnographic Encounters in Asia and the Pacific Islands, edited by Suzanne Finney, Mary Mostafanezhad, Guido Pigliasco, and Forrest Young, 29-36. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.
- 2015 Ethnography in the Digital Age (with Alan Howard). In Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, edited by Robert Scott and Stephen Kosslyn. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Recent and Current Projects
- Editor, The Contemporary Pacific: A Journal of Island Affairs
- Codirector of the Biocultural Initiative of the Pacific (UHM)
- Codirector of Oceania Ensemble, the French-speaking Asia and Oceania Initiative (UHM)
- Biocultural Indicators working group (SNAPP)
- Inter-island Relations (Gerard Prinsen, Massey, Co-PI)
- Mangarevan language conservation and revitalization
- Marine protected areas management and governance
- Language and space in Oceania
- Moving images of the Pacific Islands