History of the Department of Sociology

The Department of Sociology was established in 1920 with the arrival of Professor Romanzo Adams from the University of Chicago. An economist by training Adams also had sociological training at Chicago. Adams founded the Departments of Economics, Sociology, Geography, and Social Work in the College of Arts and Sciences. Adams, through what became the Romanzo Adams Social Research Laboratory, set the framework of basic and applied social research in Hawaiʻi. Studies of note include the long-term impact of Western contact on the decimation of the Native Hawaiian population, the sources, direction, and significance of intermarriages in Hawaiʻi, the changing educational system within a plantation economy and its effects on the labor market participation of Native Hawaiians and diverse racial and ethnic immigrant populations in Hawaiʻi.

Adams was joined by several other professors from the “Chicago School” including Robert Park and Andrew Lind. Bernard Hormann and Kiyoshi Ikeda studied under Adams and Lind in Hawai‘i, went on to attain their doctorates on the mainland and returned to Hawai‘i where they joined the Department of Sociology as faculty. The work of Adams, Lind, Hormann and Ikeda set the stage for the Department of Sociology to use Hawai‘i as a social laboratory for scientific research for many years. That involvement in the community spread in terms of the types of research carried out by the Department, the foci of the students graduating from the Department and resulted in three major streams of activity through the 1970s and 1980s: Criminology and the Sociology of Law; Medical Sociology focusing on Mental Health and issues of Institutional Racism; and, Race and Ethnicity. As the Department moved into the 1990s and the end of the 20th century, further changes to the program concentrations of the Department occurred and the Comparative Sociology of Asian Societies emerged as a dominant theme for Departmental activities.

The Department has been an active partner providing leadership and faculty involvement in the development of a full range of interdisciplinary programs in Ethnic and Hawaiian studies, women's studies, urban and regional studies, Asian and Pacific Island studies, and in studies of health and medicine, to name but a few. As Sociology at Mānoa continues to develop, refinements to the program are inevitable, but a renewed dedication to the roots of the Department is also a direction of future action.