Event: Pizza Talk: "Samoan Hybridity: Fa'a Samoa and Lotu"

Date & Time

June 6, 2018 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
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Contact Information

Matthew Swanson
Phone 310-825-4169


Fowler A222

Event Type

Pizza Talk

Event Details

Speaker: Dr. Brian Alofaituli, Visiting Scholar, Asian American Studies Department, UCLA

The syncretism of Sāmoa’s past and new religion blended different ideas that defined the way these Polynesians understood Christianity. The new belief system unsuccessfully suppressed the pre-Christian past of myths and legends, and faʻa-sāmoa (Sāmoan way of life and culture) navigated through the new terminologies and beliefs through Sāmoan practices. The matai (Sāmoan chief) played a significant role in the spread of Christianity. The hybrid of aspects of both the old tradition and the new lotu (church) impacted Sāmoa so immensely that within twenty years since the arrival of the Gospel there “were practically no self-confessed heathen left.” The following Sāmoan saying provides an apt description of the hybrid nature of the church and faʻa-sāmoa: ua vaʻavaʻalua le talalelei ma le aganuʻu (the Gospel and faʻa-sāmoa travel in the same canoe). Other relevant sayings inclued e puipui ele aganuʻu le talalelei (faʻa-sāmoa protects the Gospel), e mamalu le talalelei ona ole aganuʻu (the Gospel is prestigious and honored in Sāmoa because of faʻa-sāmoa). Both institutions were desirous of benefits, in need of support to achieve their goals, and more importantly they demanded as much control over the other as possible. This hybridity of culture and religion plays a significant role in Sāmoan communities in the diaspora today.