Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Paisley Currah

Committee Members

Celina Su

Jillian Schwedler

Subject Categories

Political Science


Environment, Hawai'i, Military, Toxicity


This dissertation tells a story about the United States (US) military’s land occupation of two Indigenous Hawaiian wahi pana (sacred places), on O’ahu and Hawai’i Island, which have produced widespread health concerns regarding exposure to military toxins. I conducted six months of fieldwork in Hawai’i, in which I partnered with local communities in a Critical Participatory Action research process. Together, we formed and co-led a community-based science pilot study of contamination from Pōhakuloa Training Area, generating new citizen science methods capable of uncovering evidence on confirmed military toxics uses. These methods were developed in critical solidarity with international communities who face the same toxic concerns in zones of US warfare, and in consultation with professional scientists who are in dissent with the view of military and public health agencies that there are no toxic environmental concerns. I review the history of government-contracted research on these issues, along with the scientific grounds for community and professional dissent. I also address how this contracted research and the contours of its knowledge production refuse to converse with the Indigenous epistemologies and lifeways vital to relationships with ‘āina (living land). In conclusion, the dissertation weaves together these issues and the story of popular resistance in Hawai’i to articulate a theory of contemporary environmental warfare, and the role of community-based science in advocating for accountability in its midst.