headshot of Vernadette Gonzalez in outside setting

Research Expertise and Interest

Asian American literacy and cultural studies, culture of U.S. Imperialism, gender and sexuality, Philippine and Filipino American studies, transnational American studies

Research Description

Vernadette Gonzalez is an professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies. Her 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 her work is how race, Indigeneity, gender, and sexuality intersect and operate, sometimes together and sometimes in opposition, in the cultural terrains of empire. Her 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, she co-edited, with Jana K. Lipman and Teresia Teaiwa, an American Quarterly special issue on the convergences of tourism and militarism.

In her work as a whole, she examines how empire operates through and in a register of intimacy, particularly through the production of consent and hospitality upon which it relies. Her 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. 

She is co-editor of Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Hawai‘i (Duke 2019) which now anchors a series with Duke University Press. Volumes on Palestine, Guåhan, Singapore, Okinawa, Korea, the Bay Area, and Puerto Rico are in development, along with a Teaching Detours open-access guide housed with the Pacific Island Monograph Series at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. She is also coeditor of a forthcoming book on the world's biggest K-Pop group, Bangtan Remixed: A Critical BTS Reader (Duke 2024). Her 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).