Anthropology Magazine
The Problems With Coming of Age
Unit 10

Legacies of Colonialism in Samoa

A sepia-toned image of soldiers and men in uniforms, and Samoan men in formal white coats, and women in front in traditional Samoan clothing.

In this unit (to accompany the SAPIENS podcast S6E5), students will explore how colonialism shaped Samoa. Students will examine the legacies of the colonial era and how Samoan populations have striven to overcome these legacies. The unit will dig into how language is shaped, specifically how ideologies shape the language and the West’s view on Samoa and its people.

Learning Objectives
  • Explore the legacies of colonialism in Samoa.
  • Recognize how derogatory language toward Samoans misshaped the global view of Samoa and the Samoan people.
  1. The lack of isolation of individual countries and the practice of creating a world with more fluent borders.

  1. A set of words that is spoken and understood by a group of people.

  1. Something that was passed on by the people who have lived before us.

Professor Talking Points
  • Several countries played a role in the colonization of Samoa: Germany, New Zealand, and the United States. There are a variety of areas that each of these countries influenced.
  • Colonial rule in Samoa resulted in many Western traditions, views, and beliefs influencing the Samoan people. As a result, the legacies of colonialism can still be found in Samoa. The legacies left by the West’s imposed rule are complex, as some are viewed negatively, while others are seen in a positive light.
  • Language can carry bias and affect a person’s empathy. If I use derogatory language toward a person or whole culture, that inhibits my ability to understand those people and their culture. Colonizing nations often used derogatory language to refer to the people they colonized. Using words like “savage” or “heathen” to refer to colonized people negatively shaped the colonizers’ views of those people. These negative views were often shared with other Western and global powers, resulting in negative and false understandings of non-Western nations and cultures.
  • Despite colonization, Samoans, for the most part, were able to preserve their traditions and cultures through colonialism.
  • Language is a powerful tool. It can uplift, and it can harm. Discuss the impact language and its usage has had on the global view of Samoans.
Academic Articles
  1. Cervone, Carmen, Martha Augoustinos, and Anne Maass. 2021. “The Language of Derogation and Hate: Functions, Consequences, and Reappropriation.” Journal of Language and Social Psychology 40, no. 1 (2021): 80-101.

  2. McMullin, Dan Taulapapa. “Fa’afafine Notes: On Tagaloa, Jesus, and Nafanua.” Amerasia Journal 37, no. 3 (2011): 114-131.

  3. Sailiata, Kirisitina Gail. “The Samoan Cause: Colonialism, Culture, and the Rule of Law.” PhD diss., University of Michigan, 2014.

  4. Tuia, Tagataese Tuia. “Globalization, Culture and Education in Samoa.” International Online Journal of Primary Education 8, no. 1 (2019): 51-63.

Student Discussion Questions
  • Discuss the colonial legacies that are still found in Samoa.
  • What, if any, influence did colonialism have on the educational system in Samoa?
  • How does language shape our view of other people and ourselves? Include examples to support your points.
  • Discuss how derogatory language can be used to devalue other people and how this can impact our society.
  • Watch the video “How language shapes the way we think” in “Additional Resources.” Create a list of your thoughts while you are watching this video. How would derogatory language play a role in the topic of this video?
  • Do you think that language can be used to intentionally manipulate other people’s perceptions of the world? Write an essay arguing your opinion.
  • Create an infographic highlighting a selected colonial nation in Samoa.
  • Create a list of at least two cultural aspects that were influenced by Germany and New Zealand, which can still be found in Samoa.
Additional Resources
  1. Podcast Episode: Dayonara Gaoteote: American Samoa Politics: Performing SĀMOA. “Keeping SĀMOA in American Samoa

  2. Video: TED: Lera Boroditsky’s “How Language Shapes the Way We Think

  3. Video: UN Story’s “The Shocking Link Between Hate Speech and Genocide

Unit By

Nadine Rodriguez, Freedom Learning Group

The Problems With Coming of Age
Unit 11

Unpacking the Mead-Freeman Controversy

An older white woman poses in a studio. She has short-cropped hair and thick glasses, and has her head leaning gently against one upraised hand.