Maile Arvin portrait
  • Associate Professor, Gender Studies
  • Associate Professor, History


  • BA, English, Swarthmore College
  • MA, Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego
  • PhD, Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego


Dr. Maile Arvin is an associate professor of History and Gender Studies at the University of Utah. She is a Native Hawaiian feminist scholar who works on issues of race, gender, science and colonialism in Hawai‘i and the broader Pacific. At the University of Utah, she is part of the leadership of the Pacific Islands Studies Initiative, which was awarded a Mellon Foundation grant to support ongoing efforts to develop Pacific Islands Studies curriculum, programming and student recruitment and support.

Arvin’s first book, Possessing Polynesians: The Science of Settler Colonial Whiteness in Hawaiʻi and Oceania, was published with Duke University Press in 2019. In that book, she analyzes the nineteenth and early twentieth century history of social scientists declaring Polynesians “almost white.” The book argues that such scientific studies contributed to a settler colonial logic of possession through whiteness. In this logic, Indigenous Polynesians (the people) and Polynesia (the place) became the natural possessions of white settlers, since they reasoned that Europeans and Polynesians shared an ancient ancestry. The book also examines how Polynesians have long challenged this logic in ways that regenerate Indigenous ways of relating to each other. Her work has also been published in the journals Meridians, American Quarterly, Native American and Indigenous Studies, Critical Ethnic Studies, The Scholar & Feminist, and Feminist Formations, as well as on the nonprofit independent news site Truthout.

From 2015-17, Arvin was an assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside, in Ethnic Studies. She earned her PhD in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, San Diego. Her dissertation won the American Studies Association’s Ralph Henry Gabriel prize. She is also a former University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Charles Eastman Fellow in Native American Studies at Dartmouth College, and Ford Foundation Pre-doctoral Fellow.