It Runs in the Family: Examining Internalized Oppression and Resistance among Native Hawaiian Students and their Families
Kourtney Kawano

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of California, Los Angeles

Primary Discipline

Ethnic Studies
Inspired by recent inquiries into the impact of historical trauma on Indigenous Peoples around the world, including the U.S. Department of the Interior’s investigation into the Federal Indian boarding school system from 1819 to 1969, this dissertation unpacks the colonial legacies of assimilation in Hawai‘i and the ongoing efforts that Native Hawaiian students and families are taking to challenge oppressive ideologies in their homes and schools through culture-based education. In light of increased reports of racialized and gendered conflicts involving Indigenous Peoples on local and national scales, this study critically examines internalized oppression, the conscious and unconscious acceptance of intersecting social hierarchies that reinforce and reproduce discrimination, stereotypes, stigmas, and prejudice, as a major consequence of white supremacy and settler colonialism. Given the interdependent nature of Native Hawaiian families and communities, this dissertation questions the extent to which internalized oppression and resistance against its manifestations (e.g., internalized racism, sexism, nativism) “run” in Native Hawaiian families with culture-based schooling backgrounds. Using a qualitative phenomenological research design grounded in Native Hawaiian ways of knowing and being, this study interweaves family stories, artifacts, and genealogy to understand how these phenomena are transmitted within and across generations and how these lessons of the home are treated in classrooms. Through discourse and narrative analysis of individual and group interviews with students and observations of family interactions, this study offers insights into how students internalize notions of identity and culture through kinship networks and verbal and non-verbal discourse.
About Kourtney Kawano
Kourtney Kawano (she/her) is a Native Hawaiian PhD candidate specializing in race, culture, and ethnicity within the Social Sciences and Comparative Education division at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Education and Information Studies. A former public high-school teacher, she embraces the proverb “ʻAʻohe pau ka ʻike i ka hālau hoʻokahi (all knowledge is not taught in the same school)” and brings a critical, Indigenous lens to problematize notions of western classrooms as primary sites of learning and socialization for all. She is deeply passionate about uplifting the lived experiences of Indigenous families and communities to affirm pedagogies of home, culture-based education, and Aloha ʻĀina (love of land). Additionally, Kourtney is interested in advancing current understandings of Native Hawaiian identity formation and using Critical Race Theory to examine Native Hawaiian students’ experiences with racial/ethnic socialization and race-based oppression. Her dissertation is a qualitative, phenomenological exploration of internalized oppression and resistance among Native Hawaiian families. Her research can be found in Review of Educational Research, Diaspora, Indigenous, and Minority Education, and AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples. A first-generation college graduate, Kourtney received her bachelor’s degree in government and religion from Dartmouth College and her master’s degree in education from UCLA. She grew up in Nānākuli and Kapolei on the island of Oʻahu and is an alumna of Kamehameha Schools – Kapālama.

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