A malu i fale, 'e malu fo'i i fafo Samoan women and power : towards an historiography of changes and continuities in power relations in le nu'u o teine of sāoluafata 1350--1998 c.E.

Simanu-Klutz, Manumaua Luafata
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [August 2011]
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Samoa's women have been studied in specific albeit rare moments in time by anthropologists in the late nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, but never as historical agents of a society which they have helped shape and sustain in a variety of ways for hundreds of years. This dissertation is an attempt to fill that void by examining the power of the Samoan woman--her pule, authority, mālosi, economic strength, and mamalu, social power--through the story of a unique political entity identified here as the Nu'u o Teine of Sāoluafata, the governing council of women in one of my ancestral villages on the northeastern side of the island of 'Upolu. This dissertation is concerned with a genealogy of the origins of the chiefly titles in both the Nu'u o Teine and Nu'u o Ali'i, the council of (male) chiefs. It traces the evolution of the teine's power since its founding in the mid-1300s through more contemporary times, and identifies the historical benefits and challenges of being both feagaiga, in sacred covenant with their brothers, and as suli, heirs to chiefly titles and lands. The rediscovery of this power is particularly critical at a time when globalization and international initiatives promoting women and human rights are affecting personal and cultural identities, as well as local customs and traditions. In this manner, the Nu'u o Teine of Sāoluafata serves as an analytical tool with which to view the changes and continuities in the Samoan women's sources and mechanisms of power. Specifically, questions on how these sources and tools of power have been utilized, subjugated, colonized, or manipulated are examined as the teine mediated their way through three distinct periods of time--the Vavau, Samoa's past before Western contact (1300s-1700s), Faigafa'apapalagi (1722-1962), the ways of the white people, and Faigafa'aonaponei 1962-1998), the ways of today. Though unique in its political beginnings and structure, the Nu'u o Teine is a tool with which to historicize the political, social, economic, and cultural dimensions of the feagaiga, and the shift by degree from a relationship of complimentarity to one of symmetry as Samoan women reassert their rights to lands and titles which they had historically deferred to their brothers. Given the scarcity of archival and secondary sources on Sāoluafata's past in particular and Samoan women's history in general, this study relies on oral traditions and the ethnologies of nineteenth century government officials. Moreover, in line with David Hanlon's suggestions of what Pacific islands history might look like, this study has made a conscious effort to view the past through the eyes of the current members of the Nu'u o Teine, and through a critical examination of what Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi deems as "indigenous references." This study is a su'ifefiloi, a medley, of versions made possible by a triangulation of oral, archival, and ethnographic texts and contexts.
Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2011.
Includes bibliographical references.
Samoan women
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Theses for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (University of Hawaii at Manoa). History.
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