Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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‘It’s part of who I am’: Tā’aloga ma fa’asinomaga ma fa’aSāmoa - Sport, identity, and culture in the lives of Samoan-New Zealanders

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Version 2 2023-09-22, 01:43
Version 1 2021-12-07, 11:53
posted on 2023-09-22, 01:43 authored by Connolly, Josh

Samoan-New Zealanders have become increasingly prominent within New Zealand sport since the mid-20th century. Despite the apparent desirability of players with Pacific Island heritage their presence is also met with resistance and apprehension in both professional and amateur settings. Discourse that frames the relationship between Samoan-New Zealanders and sport often does so in terms that rely on stereotypes and the naturalisation of sporting ability and participation suggesting that they are ‘built’ for sport. This thesis offers a counternarrative to such discourse exploring the ways in which sport, particularly rugby, is a culturally embedded practice for Samoan-New Zealanders. I argue that for Samoan-New Zealanders sport exists as an example of Marcel Mauss’s fait social total or Total Social Phenomenon (TSP) by virtue of the range of cultural institutions and practices that find expression within it. As such it is deeply and uniquely immersed within the fa’aSāmoa or Samoan culture. This thesis is based on seven months of ethnographic fieldwork, participant observation, and talanoa conducted in Wellington, New Zealand. It seeks to explore the ways in which sport is a culturally embedded practice as a means of interrogating the notion that Samoan-New Zealanders are ‘born to play sport’.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

CC BY 4.0

Degree Discipline

Cultural Anthropology

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Social and Cultural Studies


Bönisch-Brednich, Brigitte; Whimp, Graeme