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Chiefs, agitators, and the navy: the mau in American Samoa, 1920-1929

Campbell, Ian C. (2009) Chiefs, agitators, and the navy: the mau in American Samoa, 1920-1929. Journal of Pacific History, 44 (1). pp. 41-60. ISSN 0022-3344

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American Samoa was governed directly by the US navy from 1901 to 1951, using naval officers on short-term rotations, assisted by Samoan chiefs. Despite being benign and protectionist, the administration in 1920 was disturbed by a protest movement commonly known by the Samoan term mau. This coincided with criticisms from other quarters, including a mixed-race Samoan-Caucasian family, assisted by a California attorney, a mutinous naval officer, a Honolulu journalist and resident American traders. Previous assessments that foreigners agitated among the Samoans for their own ends were challenged by David Chappell, who transfers the initiative for the agitation to the Samoans and sees in the movement an expression of cultural rather than political nationalism. This revisionist interpretation fails to recognise the nature of the links between the foreign and indigenous elements and misreads the Samoan component. The latter was less concerned with grievances about naval rule than with the continuation of traditional rivalries between Samoan chiefs, which crystallised over access to navy patronage. Both Chappell's interpretation and the current one are post-colonialist in their endeavours to shift the focus onto Samoan cultural understandings but they differ in identifying the specific processes involved.

Item Type: Journal Article
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > C Auxiliary sciences of history (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Law and Education (FALE) > School of Social Sciences
Depositing User: Ms Neha Harakh
Date Deposited: 24 May 2009 03:53
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2012 08:04

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