People / Faculty


Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez


Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies

Asian American literary and cultural studies, Cultures of US Imperialism, Gender and sexuality, Philippine and Filipino American Studies, Transnational American Studies

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520 Social Sciences Building

Bio and Research Interests:

My interdisciplinary humanities-based research broadly examines cultures of imperialism, with a focus on the United States and its colonial territories and interventions in Asia and the Pacific. A central thematic in my work is how race, Indigeneity, gender, and sexuality intersect and operate, sometimes together and sometimes in opposition, in the cultural terrains of empire. My first book, Securing Paradise: Tourism and Militarism in Hawai‘i and the Philippines (2013),considers the convergences of modern military and touristic ideologies, cultures, and technologies of tourism and militarism. Securing Paradise was named the best book in cultural studies by the Association for Asian American Studies in 2015. Further developing this line of inquiry, in 2016, I co-edited, with Jana K. Lipman and Teresia Teaiwa, an American Quarterly special issue on the convergences of tourism and militarism.

In my work as a whole, I examine how empire operates through and in a register of intimacy, particularly through the production of consent and hospitality upon which it relies. My most recent monograph, Empire’s Mistress, Starring Isabel Rosario Cooper (Duke 2021) is an exploration of the intimacies of imperial geopolitics through the life story of a mixed-race vaudeville and film actress and sometime mistress of General Douglas MacArthur. It received an Association for Asian American Studies Honorable Mention for History in 2023. My other published work can be found in collections including Tourism Geopolitics (U. Arizona 2021); Making the Empire Work (NYU 2015); Mobile Desires (Palgrave 2015); Transnational Crossroads (U. Nebraska 2012); as well as in journals such as Journal of Tourism History (2020); Shima (2020); Radical History Review (2017 and 2015); The Journal of Sustainable Tourism (2017); and Critical Ethnic Studies (2017).

I am coeditor, with Hōkūlani K. Aikau, of Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Hawai’i (Duke 2019), which curates alternative, place based narratives, art, and itineraries that present a decolonial archive and vision for life in Hawai’i. Detours now anchors a book series with Duke University Press, with volumes on Palestine, Guåhan/Guam, Okinawa, Singapore, Korea, the San Francisco Bay Area, Puerto Rico and other sites in development. The Detours project has also inspired an open source ibook in collaboration with the University of Hawai‘i’s Center for Pacific Islands Studies, which is in development (in progress)

I am also co-editor of Bangtan Remixed, an interdisciplinary critical reader about the K-pop group BTS with Patty Ahn, Michelle Cho, Rani Neutill, Mimi Thi Nguyen, and Yutian Wong (forthcoming 2024, Duke UP). In the volume, I contribute an essay that focuses on the gendered Asian laboring body in circuits of entertainment, which is informed by my next book projects on hospitality, interracial militarized sex work, tourism entertainment, and other embodiments of invitation and encounter.

Currently, I’m at work on a project about hospitality and its discontents. I’m delighted to be back at my alma mater: I earned my doctorate from this department in 2004, with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender and Sexuality. I formerly taught in the Department of American Studies at the University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa, where I also served as director of the university’s Honors Program.