Professor of American, gender studies receives honorable mention for essay

Mary Zaborskis

Mary Zaborskis is assistant professor of American studies and gender studies at Penn State Harrisburg.

Credit: Mary Zaborskis

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — Mary Zaborskis, assistant professor of American studies and gender studies at Penn State Harrisburg, received an honorable mention for the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) “Feminist Formations” Paper Award for her essay "Excavating Kanaka Maoli Gendered and Temporal (Archaeo)logics in 'Kumu Hina,'” with co-author Elizabeth Reich, associate professor of film and media studies at the University of Pittsburgh. 

In their abstract, Zaborskis and Reich state that the essay “draws on Indigenous studies, trans studies, queer studies, and critical youth studies to examine a 2014 documentary that explores the experiences of Hinaleimoana Kwai Wong-Kalu (Hina), a māhū teacher, activist and preserver of Kanaka Maoli culture in colonized Hawai’i.” 

Māhū translates to “in the middle” and is often translated as a synonym for transgender. Zaborskis and Reich analyze the documentary to demonstrate how this translation is problematic in the ways it imposes U.S. settler-based understandings of gender and sexuality onto Kanaka Maoli formations of gender, sexuality and kinship.

The essay was recognized at the NWSA virtual awards ceremony in October. The NWSA is a Chicago-based organization that strives to promote and support education about women and gender issues. 

"The National Women’s Studies Association is just an excellent professional organization that is at the forefront of supporting feminist, queer, sexuality and women’s studies, in scholarship [and] in activism,” Zaborskis said. “They have really incredible leadership and support. ... It’s exciting to have received recognition from them.” 

Zaborskis and Reich plan on revising their essay and resubmitting it for publication in the NWSA journal. 

"I was really proud of this work and collaboration with Dr. Reich, and I’m just excited. Recognition or not, I feel very lucky that I get to do this work ... and I look forward to continuing to do the work,” Zaborskis said.