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

Globalization, Transnational Sport Movement, and Pacific Communities Cluster

Samoans and American Football | The book manuscript Fabled Futures and Gridiron Dreams: Migration, Mobilities, and Football in American Samoa is currently under contract and in production with Duke University Press. This draws on new and 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.

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 New Zealand 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 is a collaborative project with Dr. Kali Fermantez of BYU-Hawai'i that 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.

Other Projects

Mapping Innovations in Pacific Research Methodologies | This project is a collaboration with Dr. Marcia Leenen-Young and aims to trace some of the genealogies of PRM to place them in wider contexts of methodological innovations in Indigenous/Pacific, feminist, and culturally-appropriate research.

Teaching | Current

PACIFIC 200 Pacific Studies, Semester 1, 2021

PACIFIC 700 Pacific Studies, Semester 1, 2021

PACIFIC 715 The Global Pacific, Semseter 2, 2021

PACIFIC 211/311 Polynesian Warriors: Sport and Pacific Cultures (taught again in 2023)

Postgraduate supervision

PhD in progress 

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

Kerryn Galokale (Co-supervisor), University of Auckland Pacific Studies

Coline Souihol (Co-supervisor), University of Auckland English

Mana Laumea (Co-supervisor) University of Auckland Archaeology

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 in progress (University of Auckland)

2021: Caroline Matamua, Pacific Studies

2021: Veronika Iloilo, Pacific Studies

Masters completed (University of Hawai'i-Mānoa)

2016: Joseph Halaʽufia (Main supervisor), Center for Pacific Islands Studies

2016: Kafakafa Brian Dawson (Committee member), Center for Pacific Islands Studies

2015: Katherine Hanna (Main supervisor), Sociology

2013: Asia Bento (Main supervisor), Sociology

2014: Kacy Lavaka (Committee member), UH-Mānoa Sociology

2013: Mattias Van Omen (Committee member), Anthropology

2013: Jesi Benett (Committee member), Center for Pacific Islands Studies

BA Honours (University of Auckland)

2021: Lavinia Taumoepeau, Pacific Studies

2020: KDee Ma'ia'i, Pacific Studies*

2020: Caroline Matamua, Pacific Studies

2020: Connor Bellett, Pacific Studies

2020: Melemanu Fainga'a, Pacific Studies

2020: Amber Luka Lim-Bunning, Pacific Studies

*Rhodes Scholar 2021-2024

Postgraduate Diploma Dissertation Supervisor (University of Auckland)

2017: Merelisone Qeisene, 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

2020: Summer Research Scholar (2) for "Mapping Innovations in Pacific Research Methodologies"

2020: COVID-10 Response Faculty Fund

2020: COVID-19 Response PhD Fund for Tok-Stori/Talk-Story Research Methods with Kerryn Galokale

2019: University of Auckland International Central Network and Partnership Grant

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

2018: Summer Research Scholar (2) 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 


2019: Selected Participant, University of Auckland Women in Leadership Programme

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 


2020-present        Faculty of Arts Staffing Committee Member

2018-present        Doctoral Adviser, Pacific Studies  

2017-present        Curriculum Review Committee, Pacific Studies

2018-2020           Postgraduate Adviser, Pacific Studies

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

Professional Leadership

2019-present: Council Member, Journal of the Polynesian Society

2019-present: Nominated Co-Chair, Steering Committee for the establishment of a Pacific Studies Association

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

2018-2019: Appointed Member, Pacific Islander Scholarship Award Committee, (ASAO)

2018: Acting Director, New Zealand Institute for Pacific Research

2016-2017: Appointed Coordinator, Pacific Islander Scholarship Award Committee (ASAO)

2013-2016: Elected Member, Board of Directors (ASAO)

2014-2015: Elected Chair, Board of Directors (ASAO)

Professional Memberships and Affiliations 

Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA)

Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania (ASAO)

Australian Association for Pacific Studies (AAPS)

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)

Reviewing Service

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

Royal Society RSNZ Catalys Seed Funding Reviewer (2016)

Marsden Fund External EOI Reviewer, HBS Parallel Trial (2018), EOI Reviewer Fast-Start Social Science Panel (2021)

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Uperesa, F. L. (2021). Entangled Histories and Transformative Futures: Indigenous Sport in the 21st Century. In B. Hokowhitu, A. Moreton-Robinson, L. Tuhiwai-Smith, C. Andersen, S. Larkin (Eds.) Routledge Handbook of Critical Indigenous Studies. London: Routledge. Related URL.
  • 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.
  • Mossakowski, K. N., Wongkaren, T., & Uperesa, F. L. (2017). It Is not black and white: Discrimination and distress in Hawai'i. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 23 (4), 551-560. 10.1037/cdp0000139
  • 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, F. L. (2016). Fabled futures: Migration and mobility for Samoans in American football. In D. J. Leonard, K. B. George, W. Davis (Eds.) Football, culture and power (pp. 122-138). London: Routledge. 10.4324/9781315685014-15
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/38575
  • 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. (2015). Tales of the tala (dollar): Notes on cars, consumption, and class in American Samoa. In S. S. Finney, M. Mostafanezhad, G. C. Pigliasco, F. W. Young (Eds.) At home and in the field: Ethnographic encounters in Asia and the Pacific islands (pp. 175-183). Honolulu, USA: University of Hawaii Press.


Contact details

Primary office location

Level 1, Room 102J
New Zealand

Web links