view more faculty

Karen Umemoto


Areas of Interest:


Helen and Morgan Chu Endowed Director’s Chair of the Asian American Studies Center, Urban Planning and Asian American Studies Professor



3230 Campbell Hall


Professor Umemoto’s research centers on issues of democracy and social justice in multicultural societies with a focus on US cities. She also examines and pursues planning processes that include a diverse array of voices, acknowledges different ways of knowing, and allows for meaningful deliberations. She is equally concerned about the structural, procedural and relational obstacles to attaining a just and democratic society. Her research and practice thus takes a broad view of planning in the context of social inclusion, participatory democracy and political transformation.

Her recent work has focused on the problem of overrepresentation of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islander youth in the Hawai‘i juvenile justice system. Professor Umemoto’s co-authored award-winning book entitled, Jacked up and unjust: Pacific Islander teens confront violent legacies, features youths’ narratives in an ethnographic study of youth violence in Hawai’i examined within the historic role of colonization and racial domination in the US. It critiques the punitive turn in juvenile justice and disciplinary policies and offers alternative approaches that focus on healing and restorative practices. She has also worked on juvenile justice reform initiatives as a researcher, evaluator, planner, and advocate.

Prof. Umemoto’s current research focuses on the history of placemaking in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo. She is also working as the Co-Editor/Co-Director of Foundations and Futuresa multimedia textbook on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Editorial Boards

  • Editorial Board, Planning Theory, 2005-present
  • Editorial Board, AAPI Nexus: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Policy, Practice and Community, 2002-present


MA, Asian American Studies from UCLA
Ph.D, Urban Studies from Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Book Publications

  • Leong, Russell, Karen Umemoto, Soo Mee Kim (Eds). 2023. Sa I Gu: Korean and Asian American Journalists Writing Truth to Power. Los Angeles: UCLA Asian American Studies Press.
  • Jeung, Russell, Karen Umemoto, Harvey Dong, Eric Mar, Lisa Hirai Tsuchitani, Arnold Dong (Eds.). 2019. Mountain Movers: Student Activism and the Emergence of Asian American Studies. Los Angeles: UCLA Asian American Studies Press.
  • Irwin, Katherine and Karen Umemoto. 2016. Jacked Up and Unjust: Pacific Islander Teens Confront Violent Legacies. Oakland, California: University of California Press.
  • Umemoto, Karen.  2006.  The Truce: Lessons from an LA Gang War.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press (232 pp).

Selected Peer-reviewed Articles

  • Miao T., Hishinuma E., & Umemoto K. (in press). Implications for a System of Care in Hawaiʻi for Youth Involved in the Justice System and Substance Use. In Onoye J. & Mabellos T. (Eds) Toward a Hawaiʻi State Plan for the Substance Use System of Care: Implications for a Healing System among Public Sectors and Health Disparity Populations. Hawaiʻi Journal of Health and Social Welfare. Special Supplement.
  • Iwama, Daniel, Karen Umemoto and Kanako Masuda. 2021. Calling Nikkei to Empire: Diaspora Strategies in Historic Little Tokyo. Journal of Historical Geography. 74: 44-54.
  • Agres, Robert, Adrienne Dillard, Kamuela Joseph Nui Enos, B. Puni Kekauoha, Susan Nakaoka, Karen Umemoto. 2019. “Sustaining University-Community Partnerships in Indigenous Communities: Five Lessons from Papakōlea.” AAPI Nexus: Policy, Practice and Community. 16:1-2
  • Botchwey, Nisha and Karen Umemoto. 2018. “Designing a Service Learning Course in Community Planning.”  Journal of Planning Education and Research.
  • Irwin, Katherine, Krysia Mossakowski, James H. Spencer, Karen N. Umemoto, Earl S. Hishinuma, Orlando Garcia-Santiago, Stephanie T. Nishimura, SooJean Choi-Misailidis. 2017. “Do Different Dimensions of Ethnic Identity Reduce the Risk of Violence among Asian American and Pacific Islander Adolescents in Hawai‘i?”  Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment 27(3): 151-164.
  • Sen, Siddhartha, Karen Umemoto, Vera Zambonelli, Annie Koh. 2017. “Diversity and Social Justice in Planning Education: A Synthesis of Topics, Pedagogical Approaches and Educational Goals in Planning Syllabi.” Journal of Planning Education and Research 37(3): 347-58.
  • Irwin, Katherine, Karen Umemoto. 2012. “Being Fearless and Fearsome: Colonial Legacies, Racial Constructions, and Male Adolescent Violence” Race and Justice 2(1): 3-28.
  • Hishinuma, Earl, Karen Umemoto, Toan Nguyen, Janice Chang, Bautista, Randy Paul. 2012. “Epidemiology of Mixed Marital Arts and Youth Violence in an Ethnically Diverse Sample.” Violence and Victims 27(1): 43-69.
  • Umemoto, Karen and Earl S. Hishinuma.  2011. “Policy Recommendations to Prevent Youth Violence and Substance Abuse and Foster Positive Youth Development Amongst Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander Adolescents.”  AAPI Nexus: Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders Policy, Practice and Community 9(1-2):230-240.
  • Umemoto, Karen and Hiroki Igarashi.  2009. “Deliberative Planning in a Multicultural Milieu.”  Journal of Planning Education and Research, 29: 39-53.
  • Spencer, James H., Katherine Irwin, Karen N. Umemoto, Orlando Garcia-Santiago, Stephanie T. Nishimura, Earl S. Hishinuma, SooJean Choi-Misailidis.  2009. “Exploring the Hypothesis of Ethnic Practice as Social Capital: Violence Among Asian/Pacific Islander Youth in Hawaii.” International Journal of Social Psychiatry 55(6):506-524.
  • Umemoto, Karen, Charlene Baker, Susana Helm, Tai An Miao, Deborah A. Goebert, Earl S. Hishinuma.  2009. “Moving Toward Comprehensiveness and Sustainability in a Social Ecological Approach to Youth Violence Prevention: Lessons from the Asian/Pacific Islander Youth Violence Prevention Center. American Journal of Community Psychology 44(3-4): 221-232.

Book Chapters

  • Umemoto, Karen. 2022. “Ho‘opono Mamo and Restorative Practices: Reflections on Scholar Activism in Juvenile Justice Systems Change.” In Diane Fujino and Robyn Rodriguez, Contemporary Asian American Activism: Building Movements for Liberation. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.
  • Umemoto, Karen. 2000, 2007, 2016. “On Strike: Asian American Students in the San Francisco State Strike, 1968-69.”  In Min Zhou and James Gatewood (eds.), Contemporary Asian America: A Multidisciplinary Reader.  New York: New York University Press, pp. 25-59.

Archives and Data Dashboard Contributions

  • Hate Crime Data: Los Angeles County, 2003-2020. Public interactive online dashboard containing hate crime reports collected by the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission.
  • Sa I Gu: An archive of writings and images on the 1992 Los Angeles Civil Unrest. Curated the educational website on the 30th year following the historic event.
  • Mountain Movers: Student Activism and the Emergence of Asian American Studies. Curated educational website to accompany edited book.


  • IPPY Award for Mountain Movers: Student Activism and the Emergence of Asian American Studies, Bronze Independent Publisher Book Award for Best Regional Non-Fiction, 2020.
  • Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) and the Faculty Women’s Interest Group (FWIG), Marsha Feld Leadership Award, 2019.
  • American Sociological Association, Asian American Book Award, 2018
  • Robert O. Clopton Award for Community Service, University of Hawaii, 2016
  • ACSP Planners of Color Interest Group Service Award, 2011
  • Excellence in Application, College of Social Sciences, University of Hawaii, 2010
  • W.E.B. DuBois Award, Western Society of Criminology, 2005
  • Chester Rapkin Award, Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, 2002
  • Fellowship, American Council of Learned Societies, 2001
  • Regents Excellence in Teaching Award, University of Hawai’i, 2001

Karen Umemoto