UH Hilo alum Lennie Espinoza presents literary research paper at conference in Germany

Lennie Espinoza presented their paper on Indigenous epistemology in contemporary literature of Hawaiʻi at conference held at Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany. 

Large building under trees.
Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany.

By Susan Enright.

Lennie Espinoza pictured.
Lennie Espinoza

An alum from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo recently presented — in person — their literary research paper at a conference in Germany.

Lennie Espinoza presented their paper, “Aloha ʻĀina: Indigenous Epistemology in Contemporary Hawaiian Literature,” at a Transpacific conference held in February at the Obama Institute for Transnational Studies at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany.

The Transpacific Studies Network, that hosted the conference, was established in fall of 2022 with the goal of exploring Pacific cultures, ecologies, histories, literatures, politics, and societies in an interdisciplinary, multi-lingual, and transregional manner.

The conference, titled “Transcending Boundaries: Interdisciplinary Insights in Transpacific Studies,” was the first hybrid conference hosted by the group, and the network invited scholars from around the Pacific to present their research, including recent graduates.

Kirsten Møllegaard pictured.
Kirsten Møllegaard

Espinoza, who also received a Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language from UH Hilo, had worked on the research they presented at the conference during the fall 2023 semester in a directed study course with Professor of English Kirsten Møllegaard.

“Lennie incorporated Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio’s Remembering our Intimacies: Moʻolelo, Aloha ʻĀina, and Ea in her analysis of Jasmin ʻIolani Hakes’ novel Hula,” says Møllegaard. “Lennie’s literary analysis is an excellent example of applying Indigenous epistemology to elicit a deeper, place-based interpretation of literary work.”

Espinoza obtained a travel grant to attend the conference in Germany through the facilitation of conference organizer, lecturer, and research assistant at the Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies, Sandra Meerwein.

“Lennie’s presentation received a welcoming response as well as the opportunity to network with international partners,” Møllegaard says.

“Lennie’s participation in this academic conference on a travel grant from the University of Mainz, Germany, positively shows the academic caliber of the UH Hilo English program as well as the acumen of students like Lennie, who graduated in December 2023, to remain engaged, participatory, and active in academic discourse beyond their UH Hilo English degree,” says Møllegaard.

“I feel not only inspired, but positively impressed by Lennie’s willingness and ability to represent UH Hilo at the conference at University of Mainz,” she adds.

Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.

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