Geography of Hawai‘i (Geog 368)
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Time & place: Tϴ 12:00 – 1:15 Crawford 105
Instructor: David Strauch; email:
TA: Kyle Kajihiro, email:
Office & Hours: Saunders, MF 12:30 – 1:15
Class Website:

Where in the world is Hawai‘i? Is Hawai‘i really part of the United States? Why is Honolulu the capital? What is the difference between living in Hawai‘i, being local, and being Hawaiian? Why do the best spots to surf change throughout the year? What is the value of the land – and how is that determined? To what degree are the challenges that Hawai‘i faces in coming years geographical?

Some of these questions are a little trickier than they first seem. In this course we will engage critical thinking skills through an exploration of some of the complexities of Hawaiian geography. To understand contemporary spatial relationships we will need to “look to the source”: the ecological and cultural processes which have reshaped landscapes since the islands first formed. Emphasis will be on the continuity of these processes, in the context of Hawai‘i’s interconnectedness with other Pacific Islands sharing similar culture histories and other genealogies. Drawing work from numerous disciplines into a geographical perspective, using the concepts of place, space and scale, allows us to better understand the configurations and relationships of Hawaiian landscapes, and the circulations of energy, species, people and capital throughout the islands.

In studying Hawai‘i, we will also be exploring the discipline of Geography, and considering the ways that it has been employed both in colonial projects and in movements for autonomy, with the goal of providing students with a set of analytical tools they can use in their future projects, as well as a greater awareness of the themes and challenges surrounding the people and land of Hawai‘i and the Pacific as a whole.

Goals & Student Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of this course, students should be able to:
  • explain how Hawaiian landscapes have been shaped by geomorphological, climatic, biogeographical and cultural processes
  • discuss current social and environmental issues facing Hawai‘i with reference to the historical, physical and cultural geography of the region
  • identify and locate the major features of the Hawaiian Islands on a map
  • discern and analyze theoretical and cultural biases inscribed in scholarly and popular literature
  • know where to find resources for further research both on and off campus

Participant Responsibilities (for students and instructor)

  • Clear communication, including daily use of UH email and regular use of Google Docs
  • Regular class attendance (being punctual and prepared)
  • Courteous conduct and academic honesty
  • Readiness to investigate resources on other parts of campus
  • Attention to spelling and use of contemporary Hawaiian orthography


Readings will be assigned weekly and posted on Laulima.

Grading & Assignments

Examinations (15% total)
The midterm and final will be based primarily on your command of the concepts introduced in this course and will be of a mixed format (multiple choice, essay, short answer, map quiz, etc.). Lectures, readings, guest presentation and videos will contain information that you are required to know. Many of the terms and concepts will be in Hawaiian or some other Pacific Island language. Finally, you may be tested on your knowledge of Pacific Island geography by way of map questions on the test. (Exams can not be made up except in case of extreme circumstances or by prior notice with the instructor’s approval.)
Quizzes and Participation (20%)
Short quizzes given at the beginning of class (12:00 noon sharp); if you come in late, you do not have the opportunity to earn quiz points for that day. Participation includes attendance (on time), preparation, joining in class discussions of course material and current events.
Presentation (15%)
Towards the end of the semesters, students will work in small groups to make short presentations to the class, about the physical and cultural geography of particular places (wahi pana) in Hawai‘i. (Alternatively, the presentation may be focused on a particular topic or theme, if it is arranged with the instuctor beforehand.) Along with the presentation, please turn in a formal outline and a short annotated bibliography of sources used.
Journals and Short Assignments/Discussion Questions (30%)
Students are expected to keep a journal to record activities & thoughts related to the class & the subject. Class journals should be kept in Google Docs and shared with the instructor and the TA. This provides means both for you to organize your work, and for the instructors to make sure you’re staying up to speed with the class. Information recorded in your journal should be properly referenced, and attention should be given to Hawaiian orthography. Entries need not always be extensive, and may briefly summarize your work or thoughts. Journals should include reading responses, class summaries, definitions of key terms, and reports of relevant extracuricular activities (e.g. museum visits). These will be explained in greater detail. Additionally, some specific writing assignments will be given throughout the semester.
Portfolio (20%)
At the end of the class, students present a selection of the work taken from the journals. This will include a set of the short assignments, an annotated bibliography, consisting of your reading responses, a glossary of key terms defined in your own words. The portfolio should also include a short (1-page) introduction giving an overview of the work to follow, and a short (1-page) conclusion summarizing what you got out ot the class.

Note on Deadlines: If you won’t be able to submit work at the deadline, send it before it is due, rather than afterwards.

Geography of the Pacific (Geog 365)
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