February 2016 Commons: Hard to Place


Featured Artist: Qiana Mestrich

Photographer | Writer



“Untitled (Maura and Joseph in Trafalgar Square), 1965” From the series Hard to Place (2016) Vintage photographic print


Page 42 from the book Hard to Place (2016)


“Untitled (Birthmark)” From the series Hard to Place (2016) Archival Pigment Print


Page 46 from the book Hard to Place (2016) From the series Hard to Place (2016) Archival Pigment Print

Through still photography my work exposes hidden or denied histories, giving visibility to stories shaped by immigration, assimilation and the perceived failures of multiculturalism. I work primarily within documentary photography but have also employed archival photographs, texts and found digital imagery to create conceptual, constructed pieces.

My practice is research driven and I often use my own personal/family history as a place of reference because it is both what I know best and what I know little of. Driven by the Buddhist philosophy of interconnectedness by which I was raised, I make work because I don’t believe in coincidence. Always seeking to uncover seemingly tenuous connections, I believe the photographic image has the power to relate the personal with the universal.

My latest series, Hard to Place traces the journey of an orphan boy of Nigerian and Irish parentage growing up in 1960s/70s London. A “half-cast(e)” child in 1960s and ‘70s England, Joseph was considered “hard to place” amongst the mostly white, adoptive families. Consequently, Joseph was placed “in care” at eight different times from age three to seventeen.

Joseph is my husband, we met online in 2007. On our first date he nervously told me his lifestory, continuously pulling at his sleeves to hide the ink of bad decisions made during his teenage years as a black skinhead. That night he told me about how he was born in the UK to immigrant parents, eventually growing up in an orphanage located in the posh London neighborhood of Hampstead. We were both born on the 8th (of different months), both only children and we were both “mixed” with unanswered questions about our family origins…that night Joseph and I immediately connected and we’ve been together ever since.

As a wife, over the past six years I’ve witnessed Joseph become a father with little guidance and only an instinct of love. The little boy in the color, documentary images seen in Hard To Place is our son. As a photographer, my lens has captured tender and curious moments with my son and in these images he often becomes that precocious, yet lonely little boy I imagine his father was as a child. As a mother, I’ve developed the utmost compassion for Joseph’s mother and I can’t fathom the (inner and outer) struggles she endured as a single, Irish woman with a black child in a xenophobic and racist society.

Through the United Kingdom’s Data Protection Act of 1998, in 2013 Joseph Robert Cullen received two legal-sized books stuffed with photocopied files documenting the years he spent as an orphan. The documents include typed and handwritten text written by social workers observing both Joseph and his mother Maura aka Maureen who often needed financial and housing assistance. Combining confidential government documentation, archival photographs, personal possessions and documentary images, this series reveals the social and moral forces that denied Joseph his birthright to a family while imagining an alternate (albeit uncertain) narrative. This series includes photographic, archival material and other possessions belonging to Joseph’s parents which he inherited after their passing. The inclusion of these personal archives counters the inherent definition of the orphan child as someone who comes from nothing and no one.

The dominant narrative of mixed-race orphans is that they are all born of wars, the product of illicit love affairs (or rapes) between women and the soldiers that occupied their countries. Some popular examples of these “occupation babies” include those born during/post World War II in Japan and the Korean War. It’s interesting to note that although white soldiers fathered children (often at higher rates), the offspring of black soldiers were far more ostracized.

A relationship between two people is fostered and sustained not only by the love that each person has for one another, but by the support it receives from their community and others outside their union. Even the general social sentiment plays a role in validating their union, allowing for such simple pleasures yet symbolic gestures such as holding hands in public.

I’ve self published Hard To Place as a photography book and the first spread features a portrait of Joseph’s father on the left and his mother on the right. The reason why I chose the book form to represent this series is in relation to the family album or scrapbook, mediums meant to preserve memories. For me this pairing of parents was important to create as it is a familiar photograph found in family albums.

This coupling, preserved in photographic emulsion, has been a constant in the history of the medium. So much so that people who’ve been raised by both parents often take this kind of photograph for granted not realizing how many people worldwide do not have this visual affirmation of the love that created them. I don’t know why Joseph’s parents were never photographed together, but I do recognize the power of this formal arrangement (specifically in the shaping of a mixed-race identity) and have even replicated it on the walls of our home.

The orphan is a common human archetype. There have been many notable celebrities, world leaders, figures within classical history and religious scripture, in literature and even comic book heroes who began life as orphans. Yet there has been very little within popular culture, international news or the arts about ordinary children made orphan because of the strain of historical and everyday racist attitudes. We don’t often hear of the children abandoned by one or both parents because of the stress of discrimination from society and often their respective family members that has fractured their unions.

Alone and marginalized, these children bear the intolerable weight of their parent’s failed love and that of mankind’s dark, unsettled history with race. I’m not sure which hurts worse.

Questions for Further Consideration

  1. Are mixed-race orphans (i.e. bodies) considered more desirable today for adoption?
  2. How can we leverage visual art and culture to publicly affirm mixed-race identities?

Additional Reading

Essay on Hard To Place by writer Paula Kupfer



Assemblages convey stories through their grouping and positioning of objects, and Qiana Mestrich’s work Hard to Place weaves the narrative of her husband’s past, present, and future through the lens of acute observation and love. The title, Hard to Place, references the difficulty of placing Joseph in adoption because of his mixed heritage, but also the title alludes to the physical ambiguity of the multiracial body. “What are you?” is a frequent question a mixed body hears because the ways our bodies present themselves make us hard to place as well. What struck me was the speculative elements of Mestrich’s piece, particularly how the piece fill the gaps where Joseph’s story is unclear.  Through imagining a holistic narrative, the places where Joseph’s family story is incomplete is filled in with abstractions and the beauty of the everyday and mundane. The quotidian elements of Hard to Place show how Joseph’s story is at the same time very unique and quite ordinary.  

-Dr. Alexandrina Agloro

Dr. Alexandrina Agloro is a game designer, community-based researcher, and media artist who believes in the possibilities of the decolonial imaginary using digital media as an emancipatory tool. She is an Assistant Professor of Interactive Media and Game Development at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Find more about her work at http://agloro.org.

January 2016 Commons: Island Relationality: Diasporic Indigeneity and Critical Mixed Race Studies

Dear Friends and Communities of MXRS,

     We are so pleased to introduce our new MXRS Commons as part of our Arts and Education Programming. This online forum invites scholars, artists, and activists to gather around central themes and debates taking place in Critical Mixed Race Studies today. Our MXRS team hopes to facilitate thoughtful responses to challenging and controversial issues, as well as critiques of Mixed Race Studies, popular culture, and public discourse.

     This Commons takes shape as a collection of concise thoughtpieces–most organized into cluster conversations between each of the participants. We invite you to follow these conversations as they take place right here on our website each month.

     Our inaugural conversation,  Island Relationality: Diasporic Indigeneity and Critical Mixed Race Studies, is one of great importance and its topics are often overlooked or understudied within Mixed Race Studies contexts. This first Commons brings together three innovative graduate students doing interdisciplinary work at the intersections of race, place, and decolonial studies, and we are excited to share with our MXRS communities a preview of their work.

     Thank you for your continued support and curiosity. And most importantly, thank you for sharing your stories!

Stephanie Sparling Williams

Arts and Education, Chair

MXRS Commons Editor

Mixed Race and Diasporic Indigeneity in Kristiana Kahakauwila’s “Thirty-Nine Rules for Making a Hawaiian Funeral into a Drinking Game”

By: Joyce Pualani Warren

Rather than discrete concepts, Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) epistemology theorizes time and space as enmeshed and liminal. They are mutually constitutive: In the Hawaiian language, the past is ka wā mamua, what is in front of us; and the future is ka wā mahope, what is behind us.[1] This relationship is mediated by the Kanaka Maoli body and its maintenance of kinship ties between humans and their surroundings: As Lilikalā Kameʻeleihiwa asserts, “the genealogies are the Hawaiian concept of time, and they order the space around us.”[2] However, over the last two centuries U.S. political and economic interests have consciously displaced genealogy as a tool for understanding the Kanaka Maoli’s position in the world, and instead privileged racial blood quantum as the determinant of group belonging. But how is belonging perceived among contemporary Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) who evade or refuse the exactitude of blood quantum? Furthermore, with a huge portion of Kānaka Maoli residing in the diaspora, how are issues of belonging now compounded by space and time, by how far or how long one has been away from the islands?

This paper utilizes the bodily liminality of the epistemological connections between time and space to index the shifting articulations of belonging in contemporary Kanaka Maoli communities; particularly as they are presented in Kristiana Kahakauwila’s short story “Thirty-Nine Rules for Making a Hawaiian Funeral into a Drinking Game.” This is Paradise, Kahakauwila’s collection of short stories, reveals the malleable intersectionality of diasporic Kanaka Maoli identity: localness is racialized in one text and temporalized in another; indigeneity is spatialized in one text and racialized in another. By close reading key moments of bodily engagements with time and space in “Thirty-Nine Rules for Making a Hawaiian Funeral into a Drinking Game,” I offer a theorization of indigenous cosmogony and epistemology that embraces the liminal as a productive site for discussions of belonging for mixed-race and diasporic Kānaka Maoli.

“Hawaiian, but no Local”

“Thirty-Nine Rules for Making a Hawaiian Funeral into a Drinking Game” pushes us to explore how diasporic offspring bring their own experiences of place and race to bear on their interactions with on island relatives and communities. The anonymous protagonist, a hapa haole (half foreign, half white) English major from California, moved back to Honolulu a year ago to be near her ailing grandmother. The story unfolds during the funeral services and wake for her grandmother, detailing how both the protagonist and her relatives come to understand and accept her liminal positionality.

This liminal positionality is located at the intersection of place and race. The protagonist often finds herself “hovering around the exterior,” feeling as if she does not quite belong because she presents as mixed race and grew up in California.[3] In this story, race and place combine to enhance her marginality, as she reminds herself: “After all, you were not born on Kauaʻi. You weren’t even born in Honolulu. No, you were raised a California girl, like your mother before you. She is haole. White. A foreigner. This makes you hapa haole. Half white. Half foreign.”[4] As her distance from Kauaʻi increases, so does her foreignness. This distance seems to compound her racial foreignness. Because her mother, a foreigner, is white, the protagonist is then perceived by herself and others as racially and spatially foreign. Her father, who is Hawaiian, is also of mixed ancestry, yet this goes unmarked, as her composition of “half foreign” is predicated on her being half native. The only reference to her father’s racial background comes when she sees a photograph of her paternal grandfather for the first time and observes, “He pulls more Chinese than you expected.”[5] Her father’s mixed racial background is mitigated by his proximity to Kauaʻi, being born and raised there.

However, his location and genealogical ties are also complicated by his desire to live a life that is not necessarily in step with traditional Hawaiian cultural protocol. As the narrator observes, “he is Hawaiian but no local.”[6] In observing familial interactions she reflects on her father’s divergent path and creates Rule 29: “Understand your dad was different from the outset…After all, to be a boy and diverge…to leave the island for boarding school; to want to go to college on the mainland; to want to stay there, on the mainland, with only one child to his name, and a girl at that, is to cease to want what men want…Because he is Hawaiian, but no local.” The protagonist’s burgeoning awareness of this mixed identity is part of a shift in her own understanding of Kanaka Maoli kinship systems, racial identity, and constructions of belonging.

A family gathering in Hawaiʻi filled with aunts and uncles as well as “eighth cousin[s] four times removed” and hānai cousins is the perfect backdrop to navigate belonging for a mixed race, diasporic, only child.[7] As nineteenth-century Kanaka Maoli historian David Malo reminds us: “The genealogies have many separate lines, each one different from the other, but running into each other. Some of the genealogies begin with Kumu-lipo…This is not like the genealogy from Adam, which is one unbroken line without any stems.”[8] After talking story with relatives and recognizing how Kanaka Maoli genealogies may incorporate other racial identities, as in the case of her father’s Chinese ancestry, the protagonist begins to recognize the ways her family consciously affirms her belonging.

This affirmation is presented through constructions of spatial inclusion. In contrast to her initial inclination to “[hover] around the exterior,” a cousin invites the protagonist to go surfing with a group: “He’ll tell the other guys to let you catch some waves. He’ll tell the other guys you’re his cuz. He’ll take care of you, and you know what this means: You are no longer some Honolulu hapa. You are a Napili. You have one more name, another branch of family to whom you belong. One more from which you can’t escape.” [9] In contrast to the linear and static ideas of Western identity which undergird the protagonist’s initial feelings of marginality, Kanaka Maoli epistemology affirms that one’s current kinship ties, and subsequently one’s status, are not necessarily fixed from the moment of birth but may broaden and shift—as evidenced by the protagonist’s realization that she is “no longer some Honolulu hapa.”   As J. Kēhaulani Kauanui writes: “whereas in the colonial frameworks a person’s vital substance comes from genetic inheritance, in the Pacific Islands context, one’s substance is acquired through genealogical inheritance and sustenance from feeding in any given set of relationships.”[10] American notions of identity are based largely on the immediate conditions surrounding one’s birth and the supposed inherent qualities of nationhood and race became conflated in an attempt to pre-determine the character and quality of a being.  In this way the American concept of kinship is a restrictive force, an “unbroken line” with no “stems,” that only recognizes immediately tangible relations with no significance placed on shared histories and is essentially restrictive or exclusionary while the Kanaka Maoli mode is inherently extensive and inclusionary. This extensive and inclusive mode reveals a potentiality for belonging that is located within the body, but is not beholden to American discourse’s finite and tangible constructions of identity which initially plagued the protagonist.

Conclusion: Looking to the Source

Oddly enough, I’d like to close this piece with a discussion of this boundless potentiality. Specifically, I’d like to genealogize some of these constructions of belonging by keeping the Kanaka Maoli cultural mandate to nānā i ke kumu, to look to the source. In the aforementioned  quote from David Malo, which discusses kinship systems, he affirms that many genealogies begin with Kumulipo. And as Lilikalā Kameʻeleihiwa again reminds us, “the genealogies are the Hawaiian concept of time, and they order the space around us.” A 2,000 line chant that is simultaneously cosmogony, genealogy, poem, and history, the Kumulipo details the unfolding of the universe from the potentiality of pō—the void, the night, the generative space—all the way through the gods, plants, and animals to man.

This unfolding of the universe through pō and ao is divided into 16 wā. More than handy divisions for storytelling, the wā also reflect the epistemological constructions of time and space which are part of the development of the universe. In Hawaiian, wā can mean era, time or season, as well as “space, interval, as between objects or time.”[11] The enmeshed and liminal relationship between time and space, and the fact that they are constitutive elements of Kanaka Maoli genealogical connections to the universe and humanity, reveal bodily mediations of time and space as defining elements of Kanaka Maoli belonging. As a history of creation and a genealogy which connects the Kanaka Maoli individual to the rest of the universe, the Kumulipo reveals the pō as a tool for understanding and maintaining one’s place in the world—and as such, many Kanaka Maoli see the pō’s liminal potentiality as that which orients and secures their identity.[12]

From this position of privileging humanity’s relationship to the potential of liminal times and spaces, I read Kahakauwila’s work as a theorization of indigenous epistemology that embraces the diasporic and intersectional belonging of contemporary Kanaka Maoli. Wā, as time and/or space, is a simultaneous recognition of difference and relationality and is something to be nurtured. If the future is truly ka wā mahope, that which is behind us, then serious conversations of decolonial futures must be firmly rooted in the past. Thus, if we take seriously the charge to nānā i ke kumu, to look to the source, it seems that we must embrace the liminal as a productive site for discussions of belonging for mixed race and diasporic Kānaka Maoli.


Joyce Pualani Warren is a PhD candidate in the Department of English at University of California, Los Angeles. Her research interests include: Kanaka Maoli epistemologies and ontologies, indigeneity in the diaspora, decolonial theory, critical race and ethnic studies, American studies, Pacific Islands literature, and American literature.


As Joyce accurately stated in her discussion on bodily liminality, examining the past is an instrumental component to decolonization.  As a historian, I constantly remind my students that history is important because it helps explain the present.  Moreover, Joyce’s statement on Kanaka Maoli epistemology regarding time and space gives us insight into understanding how native Hawaiians understand genealogy and how it differs from western notions of family.   Thus, Kanaka Maoli epistemology regarding family, kinship, and land provides a conceptual alternative to western notions of race, diaspora, and belonging.  This alternative is flexible since time and space are “enmeshed” and transcends how most people interpret western constructs of race and inclusion/exclusion.  All in all, I believe Joyce’s work provides a point of entry in which we can rethink diasporic identity.

-Alfred Flores

By engaging Kanaka Maoli spatial and temporal frameworks, Joyce articulates the ways in which one can more easily envision the many lenses from which people theorize their own genealogical connections to land, futurity, the past, and our shared contemporary moment.  Joyce’s work powerfully destabilizes continental conceptions of spatiality and temporality that are used to Other island knowledge as isolating and insignificant, as also noted by Epeli Hau‘ofa (1993).  By highlighting the complex “enmeshment” of Kanaka Maoli conceptualizations of time and space, Joyce brings to the fore the multiplicity and infinite potentiality of relational experiences within the diasporic Kānaka Maoli and mixed race communities.  In noting that “decolonial futures must be firmly rooted in the past” Joyce also actively contests the eradication of Kanaka Maoli cosmogony and reasserts its integral importance within active processes of decolonization and US deoccupation that continue to manifest throughout Hawai‘i’s archipelago.

-Becka Garrison

Island Relationality and Settler Responsibility

By: Rebekah Garrison

In the past year I have begun to think more relationally about particular island spaces and their interconnected histories that produce counter-narratives to US imperialism and militarism.  These counter-narratives are understood through the lens of Indigenous geographies that continue to disrupt colonial cartographies that insist on static notions of regionalized areas.  As the members of the International Women’s Network Against Militarism (IWNAM) illuminate, the Pacific and Caribbean are not contained, but rather, surge together through demilitarization solidarity.  And, as a white settler doing research within Indigenous island space, I continue to work under the methodological approach that I am calling “settler responsibility.”

My research looks at how Indigenous women activists in the Mariana Islands, Hawaiʻi, Vieques, and Puerto Rico link the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea through demilitarization, as the core, of their social movements.  I examine community mobilizations that resulted in the expulsion of the US military, and its allies, from Kahoʻolawe in 1990 and Vieques in 2003 to demilitarization tactics within the contemporary Mariana Islands.  Using a combination of archival research, interviews, and participant observation, I write a history of “island relationality.” Meaning, my research disrupts singular studies of islands, and instead, works through the analytic of demilitarization for comparative analysis.  By focusing on the IWNAM, I argue that members of this organization construct their own decolonial theorizations of geography.  In working together towards creating a network of relations, participants redefine the parameters of thinking through islands as comparative units. I articulate how the histories of Kahoʻolawe and Vieques circulate within the Mariana Islands and cognitively map decolonial forms of island relationality between Pacific and Caribbean islands.  Analysis of the IWNAM provides a new discourse regarding the ways in which Indigenous women activists across multiple island sites mobilize solidarity that disrupt cyclical histories of colonialism, while also, imagining a future free of US military imposition.

Before going any further, I’d like to take a moment and flesh out the methodological approach I’m calling “settler responsibility.”  As a floating member between the Vieques, Hawai‘i, California, and soon the Mariana Islands chapters of the IWNAM, I am continuously inspired by the California members who fight US militarization from within the “belly of the beast.”  While the California chapter is comprised of settlers from various diasporic communities, who may or may not identify as Indigenous, there are also white women who actively participate in the organization, myself included.  I situate this diverse set of settlers within a methodological framework of “settler responsibility” that derives from the work of Kanaka Maoli scholar ku‘ualoha ho‘omanawanui and her articulations of “kuleana consciousness” (2012).

In Hawaiian “kuleana” translates to many concepts, but is more generally understood as “responsibility” and “privilege.”  According to ho‘omanawanui, “kuleana consciousness extends to all.  Settler colonialism benefits settlers and is bent on eliminating the Native.  Settlers and others with new insights, having heard this story, can adopt a form of kuleana consciousness” (loc. 2901).  I believe that settler responsibility is a form of kuleana consciousness that greatly values listening, and for this reason, the incorporation of oral histories is crucial to my work.  When settlers, particularly white settlers are quiet, there’s less cacophony and more mediation towards breaking down socially constructed divisions that continuously hinder us all from transforming how we interact with one another, at both quotidian and structural levels. In adopting a form of kuleana consciousness, I believe that white settlers, too, may participate in processes of decolonization that break from violent narratives that homogenize multiple island sites as an amalgamated Other, as articulated by Epeli Hau‘ofa (1993).

As noted by the work of decolonial scholars like Haunani-Kay Trask (1999), Vince Diaz (2004), and Dean Saranillio (2014) there has been an ongoing call to settlers to be accountable for and take seriously their settler positionality within continual forms of Indigenous dispossession.  Saranillio, who has been greatly impacted by the life, scholarship, and activism of Trask, like myself, has an incredibly inspiring utopic vision for settler and Indigenous solidarity.  According to Saranillio,

By taking seriously Indigenous knowledges and economies, we can create another future, and in the creation of an alternative future, more space for mutual respect can occur.  Settler states have no interests in non-Natives identifying with native movements, as such identification opens our world to alternatives that the settler state denies are possible (204).

I want to be a part of that world which is denied to all of us.  Because history making is never experienced by a single group, but rather, is the formation of a shared past, the rendering of history solely through a white colonial lens is not only inaccurate but is violent to us all.

My concept of “island relationality” opens a space of possibility for the development of a more unified island historical discourse, as expressed through the oral histories of Indigenous island subjectivities across multiple regionalized and militarized areas.  By incorporating oral histories into my work, past memories entwine with future aspirations and preserve a historical record of island relationality through the lens of demilitarization.  Relationality and demilitarization, then, are not in opposition to one another when viewed through the lens of the women of the IWNAM, but rather, complementary to each other.  As histories of demilitarization strategies navigate across multiple island sites, so too does a greater understanding of these struggles expand and inspire utopic geographies of Indigenous women activism across oceans and seas. The voices and histories illuminated throughout my research conceptualize new ways of decolonial relationality by emphasizing how human mobility can never be contained to static notions of colonial cartography.

As my work highlights, the ways in which relationality is theorized does not necessarily have anything to do with one’s physical proximity to others, but can be conceptualized in terms of experiential ways of knowing and seeing the world.  As the women of the IWNAM bring to bear, the violent totality of US Empire cannot be understood through the research of a single regionalized area.  Rather, US Empire must be re-territorialized through the lens of island spatiality, temporality, and subjectivities and contextualized through a multiregional framework. Demonstrating a lingering discontent since the islands were illegally annexed or ceded to the US in 1898, my project addresses the inflexibility that colonial cartographies presume.



Rebekah received her B.A. (2006) and M.A. (2010) degrees in Spanish Literature from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity at USC.  Her research interests include the intersections of empire and island relationality, Indigenous geographies, colonial cartographies, settler responsibility, demilitarism, and decolonial theory and praxis.



Militarization is a pervasive force that has and continues to negatively impact the lives of people regardless of racial or ethnic background.  It also transcends national and territorial borders, which makes it challenging for individual people to combat.  However, Becka’s work on the connections of demilitarization in the Caribbean and Pacific reminds us that people have agency against capitalist forces such as militarization and globalization.  This agency is also rooted in the possibility of interracial and interethnic solidarity that includes people from various geographic and cultural backgrounds.  Just as importantly, Becka offers us a way to think about how white settlers can also be part of this process of decolonization through “settler responsibility.”  Moreover, I believe Becka’s work is part of a growing scholarship that is calling for greater solidarity similar to that in the documentaries entitled, Living Along the Fenceline (2011) and Insular Empire (2009).

-Alfred Flores

Becka’s emphasis on the dynamism of indigenous constructions of space and memory underscores the ways lived experiences may combat the rigidity of imperial discourses of knowledge and identity. In highlighting the collaborative work of activists across geographical regions, this piece reminds us that static settler cartographies cannot contain these vibrant and fluid constructions “because they are always transforming through new narratives.” Her attention to the ways women have countered militarism and the imposition of colonial cartographies also provides an entry point for discussions of how intersectional feminisms are useful in combating specifically patriarchal aspects of empire and settler colonialism. In addition to privileging the voices of indigenous feminists, the framework of “settler responsibility” invites a plurality of voices. This reliance on gendered, ethnic, racial, regional, and indigenous diversity is a welcome contribution to demilitarization efforts and settler colonial studies, drawing its strength from the endurance, resilience, and vitality of lived experience.

-Joyce Pualani Warren

 U.S. Military Expansion and Settler Colonial Studies

By: Alfred P. Flores

Guam is a 212 square mile island located in the western Pacific Ocean.  Specifically, it is the southernmost island of the Marianas Archipelago.  The indigenous inhabitant are known as Chamorros.  Since the 17th century to the present, Guam has been under the colonial authority of three different nations (Spain from 1688 to 1898, United States from 1898 to 1941, Japan from 1941 to 1944, and the United States from 1944 to the present).  Today, Guam is categorized as an unincorporated territory of the United States.  While those who are born on Guam are U.S. citizens, they have limited protection under the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.[1]  Due to this colonial legacy, scholars have been rewriting the history of Guam by including the marginalized voices of its people.

One of the widely accepted ideas of Guam history is that the Chamorros of Guam were grateful to the U.S. military for “liberating” them from Japan during World War II and were thus, willing to give their land to the U.S. military as an act of gratitude.  By 1950, the U.S. military had occupied approximately thirty to thirty-five percent of the entire island.  Utilizing declassified archival records from the U.S. National Archives, unseen archival documents from the Nieves M. Flores Memorial Library, and thirty-three oral histories I conducted on Guam, my previous work argued that some Chamorros were actually critical of the U.S. military and vehemently objected to the confiscation of their lands.  This was most evident in their opposition to the U.S. military’s attempt to make public spaces such as beaches into restricted areas that were reserved for only the military to use.  I also argued that Chamorros continued indigenous practices of land stewardship that included reliance on land for self-subsistence, the cultivation of clan relationships through family gatherings, and on Chamorro preference for land in-exchange rather than monetary compensation for their property that was confiscated.  While my approach to studying empire and indigenous resistance has helped me complete the writing of this chapter and my dissertation, I want to push the boundaries of my work to think even more broadly on how the U.S. military has confiscated the land of indigenous people in other parts of the world.

A category of analysis that I am now considering to foreground in this chapter and for my entire manuscript is the idea of settler colonialism.  Based on the work of scholars such as Haunani-Kay Trask, Andrea Smith, and Patrick Wolfe, I believe settler colonial studies provides a framework that allows me to not only underscore U.S. military land acquisition as an imperial project but one with the particular goal for the settlement of the U.S. military as a permanent fixture on Guam.  Moreover, the settlement of the U.S. military on Guam also works in concert with the displacement of Chamorros from their lands, which is an ongoing issue for Chamorros today. Thus, this will allow me to connect the experiences of Chamorros in Guam to other ethnic, indigenous, and racial groups who have or currently still do live in U.S. military occupied sites.  This approach should also lead me to other ways in which people throughout the world have resisted against U.S. military occupation.


Alfred P. Flores obtained his Ph.D. in History at the University of California, Los Angeles.  Currently, he is a lecturer at California State University, Long Beach and at Pitzer College.



In this piece, Alfred does an excellent job underscoring how in many instances cartography, the science, practice, and art of drawing maps acts as a mechanism for colonial and militarized processes of Indigenous dispossession, as also noted by Margaret Jolly (2007).  In highlighting that some of Guam’s Chamorro community were in “opposition to the U.S. military’s attempt to make public spaces such as beaches into restricted areas that were reserved for only the military to use” one can more accurately see how Indigenous geographies continue to disrupt colonial cartographies.  Through the lens of Chamorro oral histories, Alfred’s work actively demilitarizes ways of conceptualizing Guam’s colonial cartography.  Alfred’s critical engagement with previously classified archival records demonstrates the ways in which Guam’s Chamorro community continues to challenge settler conceptions of the island’s Indigenous geography and historical discourse.

-Becka Garrison

By responding to the complex historical layers of foreign military presence on the island of Guam (Spanish, Japanese, and U.S.), Alfred’s work also opens up avenues for how Chamorro people can find solidarity in decolonial and demilitarization efforts across the globe. His emphasis on global indigenous solidarity coupled with his use of indigenous voices to counter the imperial archive point to the ways mixed methodological approaches—and their variously mixed roots—provide an adaptive and holistic framework for indigenous peoples. In Alfred’s juxtaposition of the indigenous voice and the settler colonial written word, he crafts a space for displaced indigenous peoples to literally talk back to empire(s). Alfred’s attention to the potential of a global indigenous polyphony talking back to imperial archives can be usefully situated alongside pieces such as Achille Mbembe’s “The Power of the Archive and Its Limits” (2002) and Jodi A. Byrd and Michael Rothberg’s “Between Subalternity and Indigeneity” (2011), both of which endorse a critical reappraisal of archival and historiographical processes.

-Joyce Pualani Warren

BOOK REVIEW – Raising Mixed Race: Multiracial Asian Children in a Post Racial World


Sharon H. Chang’s inaugural book, Raising Mixed Race: Multiracial Asian Children in a Post Racial World, lays out a blue print that outlines the history of white supremacy and how it has corrupted the way people treat each other, specifically Mixed Race/ Multiracial and Multiracial Asian individuals. She develops an important foundation that provides a glimmer of hope for moving forward toward improving our future world, despite the powerful suppressive system before us.

The title might make you think it is a parenting book, and it is (or could be), but it so much more! The language/verbiage used in the book makes this potentially academic/research strong book accessible for those who might have the most questions…parents. Though this book has a focus on multiracial Asian children, it is not just a book for parents of multiracial Asian children. It is a book for all children of color…and even for parents of white children! This book is for anyone who comes in contact with children in any way. This means if you are a teacher/educator, a child care worker, do research with children or on race and intersectionaility…or if you are a parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, grandparent, or once was a child. This book is for everyone!

The book is based on Chang’s interviews with 68 parents of 75 young children living in Washington State. She does not go into detail about her recruitment and method, however she does discuss this in my recent interview with her (see Part 1 of 2 below). She intertwines her findings with current and historical events, existing scholarly research and reports, her expertise in tracking dialogue across social media, her own multiracial Asian experience and more.

The focus is on children from 0 to 5 years old. This is an age that has been neglected in most parenting books and research with a multiracial focus. This is also an age during which many parents think that their children do not recognize/see race; however Chang shows us that they absolutely do. Young children are learning from the subtle and often unspoken systematic racism that is infused throughout every aspect of our society.

Chang makes it clear that the understanding of race begins in the home. In a world that is fearful to discuss how white supremacy has been engrained into society and families generation after generation…it is time families start having these difficult conversations. Chang warns that race is not easy to discuss, but essential and does not have to be done alone. It can be done through community. Her last chapter provides specific examples of how to address race in the community, school, and home.

This is the first book that I have seen, that looks at racial identity development, and puts systematic racism and white supremacy where it belongs…. at the beginning and linked over and over again to the end. To understand and address race issues with our children, we must begin with its origin story. When attempting to comprehend the lens in which race issues are created, we must understand the frame in which that lens is held together – white supremacy. Chang tells it like it is. She lifts the curtain on age-old white ideas of race, breaks down history, language and concepts that have created divisions between people who look different or do not follow the prescribed norms. For example, she breaks down how the trending term microagression was created from a white lens and points out there is nothing small or mirco about them! She deconstructs terms used in medical spaces, such as “Mongolian Spots” that have racist origins; and many individuals have just come to believe that is what they are called (See Part 2 of 2 below for more on this). Additionally, she provides a fantastic response to the common question/idea “But aren’t we all mixed?” in one of the most eloquently written explanations I have seen. Watch Part 2 of 2 below to hear about how she responds to the question and her new elevator response to this question!

The book is coming out just in time for the holidays, and will make a great gift. It should be on everyone’s 2016 reading list! You can order the book on the publisher site  or on Amazon.

Be sure to join Sharon on December 11th for her Facebook launch party. She will be partying all day and giving away some great prizes. Don’t miss it!

You can find the Multiracial Asian Families community and blog page on Facebook, the book page on Facebook. You can fin her on Twitter @mutliasianfams, Pinterest, or on her blog MultiAsian Families.


Watch my recent interview with Sharon!

Part 1 – She shares her mixed roots story, how the book came to be and more!

Part 2 -We discuss content from the book including: “Mongolian spots”, miss-education and the need for reeducation around racist terms, how to respond to -“Everybody is Mixed”, Culture vs. Race, Anti-bias curricula, learning environments and more.

Chandra Crudup, PhD, MSW
 is a board member and co-founder of Mixed Roots Stories. She is the Vice President of MAVIN and the Production Manager for One Drop of Love. Chandra is full time Lecturer and Faculty Associate Coordinator in the School of Social Work at Arizona State University. She has over six years of practice experience in K-12 schools. Her research interests are centered on multiracial identity and interracial relationships. Her research utilizes video technology as a qualitative data gathering tool. She is also interested in using the arts as a medium to build positive self-esteem in youth.

Mixed Roots Stories goes LIVE at #CMRS 2014

We had a blast at the Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference in November of 2014.

KT2014 Live performers with MXRS in bgWe were honored to have such a talented, global cast, for the LIVE event.

Here are some of the clips from the LIVE event on the closing night of the conference!

Note: Mature Language in several of the pieces.

Part 1 – Joe Hernandez-Kolski (with guest Dustin)


Part 2– Joe Hernandez-Kolski


Part 3-Tangled Roots (Katy Massey, Zodwa Nyoni, Lladel Bryant, Adam Lowe)


Part 5-Tania Cañas


Part 6– Fred Sasaki

Part 7 – Joe Hernandez- Kolski