Graduate Student Directory

Henry Highton

Summary of Expertise

Pacific Rim Cultural Studies; Surf History & Culture; Ecocritism

Research Interests

Since Captain Cook's arrival in Hawaii in 1778, the Polynesian tradition of surfing has captured the Western imagination. Although zealous missionaries had nearly wiped away the 'hedonistic' ritual of wave riding from the culture of Hawaiians by the 1840s, a revival in the popularity of all things indigenous, from luaus to hula to the 'sport of kings,' at the turn of the twentieth century as a tool to promote tourism to the newly acquired territory, heralded a resurgence in the ancient art of he'e nalu, or wave-sliding. My current project aims to explore how after the military usurpation of Hawaii and the Californian 'beach-blanket boom' of the 1950s and '60s, surfboards became not only a mass-produced vehicle for riding waves, but a mode of conquest in and of themselves post-Vietnam, as American surfers appropriated the tradition in their postcolonial crusades for an uncrowded, idyllic, yet ultimately unattainable notion of paradise.

Biography, Education and Training

Trey Highton is a contemporary nomadic scholar. He has studied at four universities on both coasts of the continental U.S. and moonlights as a professional surf guide in Indonesia and Central America when he isn’t buried under books. His current project revolves around the notion of surfing itself, usurped from indigenous Pacific Islanders, as a mode of capitalist imperialism and expansion of Western cultural hegemony.

Teaching Interests

Literature & Visual Cultures of Oceania; New World & Serial Poetics; Postcolonial Literature & Criticism; African-American Literature & Diaspora Studies; American Cinema & Visual Narration; Beat Literature; Critical Race Theory; Ecocriticism; Human Rights & Issues of Equality; Creative Writing