Dr Lisa Uperesa

PhD. M.Phil. MA. in Anthropology (Columbia University) with Certificate in Feminist Scholarship (IRWGS), B.A. in Sociology and Ethnic Studies (Honors, UC Berkeley)


Dr. Lisa Uperesa is Senior Lecturer in Pacific Studies at the University of Auckland.  One strand of her research includes post-/colonial formations, indigenous politics, and contested sovereignties at the heart of and on the margins of U.S. empire. Another examines the place of sport in Pacific communities, with a focus on culture, political economy, and gender.  Dr. Uperesa earned her undergraduate degree at University of California, Berkeley, her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University, and is a proud alumna of Samoana High School. Previous teaching appointments include University of Hawai`i-Mānoa, Columbia University, and Hofstra University.  She has served as Acting Director of the New Zealand Institute for Pacific Research and is the former Chair of the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania.

Research | Current

Sport and Pacific Communities Cluster

Haka on the Move: Sport Circuits and Cultural Performance | This project is focused on the movement of haka through global sporting circuits outside of Aotearoa New Zealand.  It includes local case studies of use of haka in sporting and wider contexts, in Aotearoa and the United States.  The key focus is movement and transformation of cultural forms in new contexts and debates around protocol, ownership, and haka as cultural intellectual property.  

Native Mascots and Indigenous/Multiethnic Communities | This engages research on sporting mascots in U.S. context but makes new contribution in analyzing the way Native mascots are used by Indigenous and multi-ethnic communities.

Two additional projects are in development focused on Pacific communities in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Samoans and American Football | The book manuscript Fabled Futures and Gridiron Dreams: Migration, Mobilities, and Football in American Samoa is currently under review. This draws on prior research tracing the impacts of territorial status, changing migration and mobility patterns, and the emergence of football in American Samoa in the late twentieth century.  A second manuscript oriented toward a more popular audience is in development.


Teaching | Current

Stage 1

PACIFIC 100 Introduction to Pacific Studies, Semester 1, 2019

PACIFIC 105 The Contemporary Pacific, Semester 2, 2019 


Stage 2

PACIFIC 200 Pacific Studies, Semester 1, 2019 

PACIFIC 211 Polynesian Warriors: Sport and Pacific Cultures, Not taught in 2019


Stage 3

PACIFIC 304 Advanced Pacific Studies, Semester 2, 2019

PACIFIC 311 Polynesian Warriors: Sport and Pacific Cultures, Not taught in 2019



PACIFIC 700/700A  The Pacific: Interdisciplinary Studies, Semester 1, 2019 

PACIFIC 708/708AB Guided Pacific Research, Availability to be advised

PACIFIC 710 Independent Study, Availability to be advised

Postgraduate supervision

PhD in progress 

Caleb Marsters (Co-supervisor), University of Auckland Pacific Studies

Penny-Bee Bovard (Committee Member), UH-Mānoa Sociology

Ruth Craft (Committee Member), UH-Mānoa American Studies

Leitualasa Malieitulua (Committee Member), UC Berkeley Graduate Theological Union


Masters completed (Main Supervisor) 

2016: Joseph Halaʽufia, UH-Mānoa Center for Pacific Islands Studies

2015: Katherine Hanna, UH-Mānoa Sociology

2013: Asia Bento, UH-Mānoa Sociology


Masters Committee Member

2016: Kafakafa Brian Dawson, UH-Mānoa Center for Pacific Islands Studies

2014: Kacy Lavaka, UH-Mānoa Sociology

2013: Mattias Van Omen, UH-Mānoa Anthropology

2013: Jesi Barnett, UH-Mānoa Center for Pacific Islands Studies


Postgraduate Diploma Dissertation Supervisor

2017: Merelisone Qeisene (PG Dip Dissertation), University of Auckland Pacific Studies


Undergraduate Theses completed

2015: Michael Higa-Puaoi, UH-Mānoa Sociology (Main Supervisor)

2012: Matthew Hom, UH-Mānoa Sociology/Honors Program (Committee Member)


Grants and Fellowships

2018-2019: Faculty Research Development Fund Grant for “Haka on the Move: Sport Circuits and Cultural Performance” 

2018: Summer Research Scholar for “Haka on the Move: Sport Circuits and Cultural Performance” 

2015: University of Hawai`i-Mānoa SAPFB Grant for campus event series “In Football We Trust? Sport and Polynesian Communities” 

2012: Sociology Faculty Research Award, University of Hawai`i-Mānoa, “Samoan Migrations: Football and the First Year of College” 

2008: Scheps Travel Grant, Columbia University Anthropology Department 

2008: Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania (ASAO) PISF Travel Award 

2003-2008: Faculty Fellowship, Anthropology Department, Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences 

2003-2007: Haynes Summer Fellowship, Columbia University Office of Minority Affairs 


2014: Honorable Mention, Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellowship for Junior Faculty Program

2013-2014: Emerging Diversity Scholar Citation, National Center for Institutional Diversity, University of Michigan

2012-2013: Invited Participant, Interdisciplinary Faculty Seminar on Race, Gender, and Culture, University of Hawai`i-Mānoa

2011: Alternate, Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Diversity Fellowship

2009-2010: Merit Dissertation Fellowship, Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences 

2008: Summer Merit Award, Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences 



2018-present        Postgraduate and Doctoral Adviser, Pacific Studies  

2017-present        MA Thesis Exam Reviewer

2017-present        Curriculum Review Committee

Areas of expertise

  • Anthropology and Pacific Studies
  • Migration, Transnationalism, and Pacific Diaspora
  • Sport
  • Indigenous/Pacific Politics and U.S. Empire
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Gender

Committees/Professional groups/Services


2019-  : Member, Journal of the Polynesian Society Council

2018-2019: At Large Member, Pacific Islander Scholarship Fund, Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania

2018: EOI Reviewer, HBS Parallel Trial, Marsden Fund Council


Professional groups: 

Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania (ASAO)

Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA)

American Studies Association (ASA)

American Anthropological Association (AAA); Society for Urban, National, and Transnational/Global Anthropology Section; Association for Feminist Anthropology Section; Association of Indigenous Anthropologists Section; Melanesian Interest Group



Manuscript Reviewer for Journal of the Polynesian Society, The Contemporary Pacific, State, Society & Governance in Melanesia, Environment and Society, Native American and Indigenous Studies Journal, Bloomsbury Academic, and Sociology Compass



Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Uperesa, F. L. (2018). Training for empire? Samoa and American gridiron football. In C. McGranahan, J. F. Collins (Eds.) Ethnographies of U.S. empire (pp. 129-140). Durham, USA: Duke University Press. Related URL.
  • Uperesa, F. L., & Garriga-Lopez, A. M. (2017). Contested sovereignties: Puerto Rico and American Samoa. In Negrón-Muntaner F (Ed.) Sovereign acts: Contesting colonialism across indigenous nations and Latinx America (pp. 39-81). Tucson, USA: University of Arizona Press. 10.2307/j.ctt1vjqqvv.5
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/39121
  • Uperesa, L. (2016). A decolonial turn in anthropology? A view from the Pacific. https://savageminds.org/2016/06/07/a-decolonial-turn-in-anthropology-a-view-from-the-pacific/.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/34121
  • Uperesa, F. L. (2015). Addressing hyper/in-visibility: A roundtable on preliminary research with Pacific Islander student-athletes. Amerasia Journal, 41 (2), 69-85. 10.17953/aj.41.2.69
  • Uperesa, F. L. (2014). Seeking New Fields of Labor: Football and Colonial Political Economies in American Samoa. In A. Goldstein (Ed.) Formations of United States Colonialism (pp. 207-232). Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press.
  • (2014). Global sport in the Pacific. The Contemporary Pacific, 26 (2), 263-592. 10.1353/cp.2014.0031Honolulu, USA.
  • Uperesa, F. L. L., & Mountjoy, T. (2014). Global sport in the pacific: A brief overview. Contemporary Pacific, 26 (2), 263-279. 10.1353/cp.2014.0041
  • Uperesa, F. L. L. (2014). Fabled futures: Migration and mobility for Samoans in American football. The Contemporary Pacific, 26 (2), 281-301. 10.1353/cp.2014.0045


Contact details

Primary office location

Level 1, Room 102J
New Zealand

Web links