Professor Neal Milner
I grew up in Milwaukee and got all my degrees at the University of Wisconsin. Then I began gradually to move from the Midwest, through Iowa and California, until I got to Honolulu. I have been on the University of Hawai'i faculty most of the time since 1972. Before that I taught at Grinnell College. I have also taught at Carleton College and Northwestern University. Along with my work in the political science department, I helped found the University's Program on Conflict Resolution, which is part of a national network of such programs funded by the Hewlett Foundation. I directed that UH program for a couple of years. So I do some mediation and some research on that subject in addition to my main focus.
My research and teaching is very much influenced by the law and social science field. Intellectually and professionally I am closer to the Law and Society Association than I am to any political science group. My research topics are pretty diverse, but over the last couple of years, after some brief but interesting breaks in London to study spiritual healing in the UK, I have returned to my old interest in the politics of rights. The focus has changed. My earlier work centered on litigation strategies, especially on the issue of why people mobilize law. Now I am more concerned with everyday use of rights discourses and practices and on the ways rights talk catalyses the imagination. My UH colleague Jon Goldberg–Hiller and I are doing some joint work on this. This has led me to a reconsideration of a topic I looked at it in the past, the way people define ownership. So I am looking at the way condominium laws in Hawai'i reconstituted social and physical space and the “lessons” people have learned about living in and accepting this space.
I sometimes teach the Department's introductory course, and occasionally health and politics, but most of my graduate and undergraduate courses deal with law and politics. The topics and themes vary, so the best I can do is give an indication of the subject of two of these courses during the 2001–02 academic year. I did an undergraduate “Topics on Law and Politics” course on the way that religious issues emerge and get dealt with during everyday political and social life (as opposed to big cases, big litigation). My graduate seminar traced and assessed the evolution of law and social science rights scholarship over the past thirty years or so.
Hawai'i is too interesting a place to spend time exclusively on professional work. I do some acting and storytelling and inspired by what a delightful and complex experience being an outsider in Honolulu is, I write stories.