Faamatai: A Globalized Pacific Identity

  • Melani AnaeEmail author
Living reference work entry

Latest version View entry history


Many social scientists – anthropologists, sociolinguists, economists, historians, and social theorists – view transnationalism and globalization as the movement or flow of people, goods, services, and ideas between nation-states or countries, as well as the complex connections between all of these (Appadurai (1996); Bauman (2001); Blommaert (2010); Brettell (2003); Castells (1996); Giddens (1999); Harvey (2005); Hobsbawm (1992); Marcus (1995); Stiglitz (2006); Tsuda (2003); Wallerstein (2004). This chapter is about how transnationality – the condition of cultural connectedness and mobility across space – which has been intensified by late capitalism and transnationalism is used to refer to the cultural specificities of global processes, by tracing the multiplicity of the uses and conception of “culture” (Ong (1999:4) Flexible citizenship: the cultural logics of transnationality. Duke University Press, Durham:4). Are Pacific nation-states being transformed by globalization into a single globalized economy? How are global cultural forces impacting on Pacific peoples, cultures, and identities? These questions will be explored with a focus on the links between cultural logics of human action and on economic and political processes within the Pacific, based on my Marsden research – a longitudinal study examining experiences of global Samoan matai (chiefs) and the Samoan transnational chiefly system (faamatai). Refuting claims about the end of traditional faamatai and the nation-state, what follows is an account of the cultural logics of globalization and development and an incisive contribution to the study of Pacific modernity and its links to global social change.


Pacific transnationalism Globalization from below Comparative advantage Faamatai: Samoan chiefly system Transnational reincorporation 



The author wishes to thank the Marsden Fund, Royal Society of New Zealand, for their assistance, without which my team (Falaniko Tominiko, Vavao Fetui, Ieti Lima) would not have been able to conduct our Marsden Project research. We also wish to thank our matai research participants who kindly agreed to be interviewed by the team, the 550 transnational matai who completed our online survey, and Pacific Studies, Te Wānanga o Waipapa, University of Auckland, for supporting this research project. A big thank you to Emmet Hawe who provided the Marsden Survey findings info-graphs.


  1. Ammassari S, Black R (2001) Harnessing the potential of migration and return to promote development: applying concepts to West Africa. IOM Migration Research Series No. 5 Geneva: International Organization for MigrationGoogle Scholar
  2. Anae M (1998) Fofoa-i-vao-ese: the identity journeys of NZ-born Samoans. Unpublished PhD thesis. Department of Anthropology, University of AucklandGoogle Scholar
  3. Anae M (2002) Papalagi redefined: toward a New Zealand-born Samoan identity. In: Spickard P, Rondilla JL, Wright DH (eds) Pacific diaspora: island peoples in the United States and across the Pacific. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, pp 150–168Google Scholar
  4. Anae M (2006) ‘Samoans’ in settler and migrant peoples of New Zealand. David Bateman Ltd, Albany, pp 230–235. Published with the assistance of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu Taonga, 230–235Google Scholar
  5. Anae M (2017) Tama’ita’i toa: Samoan womanist agency and reflections on Nafanua. New Horizons in Samoan Faamatai (chiefly System) in the 21st Century Symposium, University of Auckland, 23–24 November 2017Google Scholar
  6. Anae M, Tominiko F, Fetui V, Lima I (2016) Faavae o matai: transnational women matai voices. Measina a Samoa Conf Proc 7:185–204Google Scholar
  7. Anae M, Tominiko F, Lima I, Fetui L (2017) Transnational Samoan chiefs: views of the faamatai (chiefly system). J Samoan Stud 7:38–50Google Scholar
  8. Appadurai A (1996) Modernity at large: cultural dimensions of globalization. University of Minnesota Press, MinneapolisGoogle Scholar
  9. Bauman Z (2001) Community: seeking safety in an insecure world. Polity, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  10. Bedford R (1997) Migration in Oceania: reflections on contemporary theoretical debates. N Z Popul Rev 23:45–64Google Scholar
  11. Bertram G, Watters R (1985) The MIRAB model twelve years on. Contemp Pac 11(1):105–138Google Scholar
  12. Blommaert J (2001) Investigating narrative inequality: African asylum seekers’ stories in Belgium. Discourse Soc 12:413–449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Blommaert J (2010) The Sociolinguistics of Globalization. London: Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  14. Brettell C (2003) Anthropology and migration: essays on transnationalism, ethnicity, and identity. Altamira Press, Walnut CreekGoogle Scholar
  15. Byron M, Condon S (1996) A comparative study of Caribbean return migration from Britain and France: towards a context-dependent explanation. Trans Inst Br Geogr 21:91–104.102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Castells M (1996) The rise of the network society. Blackwell Publishers, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  17. Chappell DA (1999) Transnationalism in central oceanian politics: a dialectic of diasporas and nationhood? J Polynesian Soc 108(3):277–304Google Scholar
  18. Connell J (2003) In: Iredale R, Hawesly C, Castles S (eds) An ocean of discontent? contemporary migration and deprivation in the South Pacific. Migration in the Asia Pacific. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham/Northampton, pp 55–77Google Scholar
  19. Faist T (1997) The crucial meso-level. In: Hammar T, Brochmann G, Tamas K, Faist T (eds) International migration, immobility and development: multidisciplinary perspectives. Berg, Oxford, pp 187–217Google Scholar
  20. Faist T (2000) The volume and dynamics of international migration and transnational social spaces. Clarendon Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Firth S (2000) The Pacific Islands and the Globalization Agenda. The Contemporary Pacific (TCP), 12, 1, 2000Google Scholar
  22. Fiti-Sinclair R, Schoeffel P, Meleisea M (2017) Women and political participation: the 2016 election in Samoa. National University of Samoa, ApiaGoogle Scholar
  23. Franco B (1991) Samoan perceptions of work: moving up and moving around. AMS Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  24. Giddens A (1999) Runaway world: how globalisation is reshaping our lives. Profile, LondonGoogle Scholar
  25. Gough D (2006) Mobility, tradition and adaptation: Samoa’s comparative advantage in the global market place. Grad J Asia Pac Stud 4(1):31–43Google Scholar
  26. Gustafson P (2001) Retirement migration and transnational lifestyles. Ageing Soc 21:371–394CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Harvey D (2005) A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  28. Hobsbawm E (1992) Nations and nationalism since 1780: programme, myth, reality, 2nd edn. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  29. Kane H (1995) Worldwatch paper #125: the hour of departure: forces that create refugees and migrants. World Watch Institute. World Watch Institute, Washington, DC. 2005Google Scholar
  30. Lee H, Francis ST (2009) Migration and transnationalism: Pacific perspectives. ANU Press, Canberra, p 2009CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Levitt P (2001) The Transnational Villagers. Berkley: University of California PressGoogle Scholar
  32. Levitt P, de la Dehesa R (2003) Transnational migration and the redefinition of the state: variations and explanations. Ethn Racial Stud 26(4):587–611CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lilomaiava-Doktor S (2004) Fa’a-samoa and population movement from the inside-out: the case of Salelologa, Savaii. PhD thesis in Geography. University of Hawaii, ManoaGoogle Scholar
  34. Macpherson C, Macpherson L (2009) The warm winds of change: globalisation and contemporary Samoa. Auckland University Press, AucklandGoogle Scholar
  35. Mahler S (1998) Theoretical and empirical contributions towards a research agenda for transnationalism. In: Smith MP, Guarnizo LE (eds) Transnationalism from below. Comparative Urban and Community Research, vol 6. Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, pp 64–100Google Scholar
  36. Mangnall K (2004) Retiring to Niue. MA thesis in Pacific Studies, University of AucklandGoogle Scholar
  37. Marcus G (1995) Ethnography in/of the world system: the emergence of multi-sited ethnography. Annu Rev Anthropol 24:95–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mata’afa MF (2015) Au-malaga: Samoans in New Zealand as VFR (Visiting Friends and Relatives) travellers, the hidden riches. MA thesis in Pacific Studies, University of AucklandGoogle Scholar
  39. Meleisea M (1992) Change and adaptation in Western Samoa. Macmillan Brown Centre, ChristchurchGoogle Scholar
  40. Meleisea LM, Meredith M, Chan Mow MI, Schoffel P, Lauano SA, Sasa H, Boodoosingh R, Sahib M (2015) Political Representation and women’s empowerment in Samoa. Centre for Samoan Studies, National University of Samoa, Apia, SamoaGoogle Scholar
  41. Meleisea M (2016) Afterword. In: Potogi TTKK (ed) Aganu’u ma Agai’fanua o Suafa Matai ma Fanua Samoa: the cost of the silence of the land and titles court’s practices relating to matai titles and customary land. University of the South Pacific (USP) Press, SuvaGoogle Scholar
  42. Meleisea M (2017) Authority of the matai sa’o in contemporary Samoa. Paper delivered at the transnational Fa’amatai symposium. University of Auckland, Fale Pasifika, 23–24 November 2017Google Scholar
  43. Meleisea M, Schoeffel P (1983) Western Samoa: “Like a slippery fish”. J Polit Polynesia 1983:81–112Google Scholar
  44. Nahkid C (2009) Conclusion: the concept and circumstances of Pacific migration. In: Lee H, Francis ST (eds) Migration and transnationalism: Pacific perspectives. ANU Press, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  45. Nyberg-Sorensen N, Van Hear N, Endberg-Pedersen P (2002) The migration-development Nexus: evidence and policy options. IOM Migration Research Series No. 8. International Organisation for Migration, Geneva. Available at http://www.iom.intCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ong A (1997) Flexible citizenship: the cultural logics of transnationality. Duke University Press, Durham NCGoogle Scholar
  47. Pitt D, Macpherson C (1974) Emerging pluralism: the Samoan community in New Zealand. Auckland: Longman PaulGoogle Scholar
  48. Potogi TTKT (2016) Aganu’u ma Agai’fanua o Suafa Matai ma Fanua Samoa: the cost of the silence of the land and titles court’s practices relating to matai titles and customary land. USP Press, SuvaGoogle Scholar
  49. Schiller NG, Basch L, Blanc CS (1995) From Immigrant to Transmigrant: Theorizing Transnational Migration. Anthropological Quarterly 68(1)Google Scholar
  50. Shankman P (2011) Review of migration and transnationalism: Pacific perspectives by Helen Lee, Steve Tupai Francis. Australia National University (ANU) Press, Canberra. 2009. Pacific Affairs, University of British Columbia, 84(2):407–409, June 2011Google Scholar
  51. Small C (1997) Voyages: from Tongan villages to American suburbs. Cornell University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  52. Stiglitz J (2006) Making globalization work. W.W.Norton & Company, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  53. Transrede (2001) Migration, return and development in West Africa. Report of a Workshop at the University of Sussex. Available at
  54. Transrede (2002) Harnessing migration potential for development: examples from West Africa. Sussex Centre for Migration Research, University of SussexGoogle Scholar
  55. Tsuda T (2003) Strangers in the ethnic homeland: Japanese Brazilian return migration in transnational perspective. Columbia University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wallerstein I (2004) World-systems analysis: an introduction. Duke University Press, DurhamGoogle Scholar
  57. Walton-Roberts M (2004) Transnational migration theory in population geography: gendered practices in networks linking Canada and India. Population, Space and Place 10:361–373Google Scholar
  58. Wong G (2002) Pride of the Pacific. Metro 256:106–107Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pacific Studies|School of Māori Studies and Pacific Studies, Te Wānanga o WaipapaUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

Section editors and affiliations

  • Melani Shyleen Anae
    • 1
  1. 1.Pacific Studies, Te Wānanga o WaipapaUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations