The Contemporary Pacific, vol. 26, no. 2 (2014)

Global Sport in the Pacific

Guest edited by Fa’anofo Lisaclaire (Lisa) Uperesa and Tom Mountjoy

The Pacific Islands,  iv00_26.2covs1&4.pdf

About the Artist: Greg Semu, viii-553


Global Sport in the Pacific: A Brief Overview
Fa‘anofo Lisaclaire (Lisa) Uperesa and Tom Mountjoy, 263

Abstract: In recent decades, sport has become an increasingly important path of mobility for Pacific Islander men, positioning them within interlinked local, state, regional, and global sporting economies. Players from the Pacific (particularly in rugby, rugby league, soccer, and gridiron football) have become icons through their sporting prowess, not only within Oceania but in Japan, the United States, and throughout Europe as well, as new markets have opened up through professional and semi-professional sport. Yet this movement continues to take place within the fragile context of the spread of globalized media, transnational capital investment, and development initiatives throughout the region. This introduction to global sport in the Pacific considers the complicated realities of and links between modern, highly commercialized team sports that have facilitated both the rise of global sport in the Pacific and the rise of the Pacific in global sport. Focused on key themes of agency and mobility; development and discipline; indigenization, embodiment, and ethno-nationalism; and polyvalent imaginaries, the contributions to this special issue explore how and why sporting practices have become closely linked to various economic, political, and social processes that shape possibilities for everyday life across the Pacific and beyond.
Keywords: sport, mobility, globalization, commoditization, ethnography

Fabled Futures: Migration and Mobility for Samoans in American Football
Fa’anofo Lisaclaire Uperesa, 281

Abstract: Since the 1970s, Samoan participation in American gridiron football has grown exponentially. In American Sāmoa (and other transpacific Samoan communities), football has come to represent both a real and imagined “way out” of what appears to many as a strangled field of possibility. The visibility and vibrancy of football in American Sāmoa is rooted in Samoan histories of migration to the United States, Samoan cultural sensibilities, the changing market of the American football industry, and narrowing economic opportunities. The transnational nature of football migration is key to understanding the appeal of playing football, the rewards that accrue to successful players, and how these resources have continued to transform conditions of possibility (materially and ideologically) for young people in the islands. This article explores the layered and complex motivations for football participation as shaped by prospective forms of capital, transnational sporting institutions, and historical contingency. Focused on history, economy, and a transformed vision of the future, it offers a critical genealogy of football in (American) Sāmoa and Samoans in football.
Keywords: American Sāmoa, football, migration, mobility, capital

“No Longer Just a Pastime”: Sport for Development in Times of Change
Christina Ting Kwauk, 303

Abstract: In the midst of a noncommunicable disease (ncd) crisis, sport has emerged as a popular public health strategy across Oceania. Promising to turn unhealthy, obese bodies into fit, productive bodies, sport-based health programs are supposed to contribute to the economic development of Pacific Island nations. In Sāmoa, however, these efforts have been complicated by an existing web of meaning entangling sport within the transnational realities of Samoan families. Drawing from twelve months of multi-sited, ethnographic field research on sport for development (sfd) in Sāmoa, this paper demonstrates how Samoan understandings of sport reshape what it means to be a fit and productive citizen. Specifically, I illuminate (1) how sport is perceived as a “ticket” overseas and (2) how sport is perceived as a viable alternative pathway to the blessed life, especially for those (male) youth not excelling in school. Finally, I discuss (3) how sfd is a sociocultural response to a shifting transnational political economy of tautua (service) to the family, church, and village rooted in an unevenly expanding social landscape of mobility and work. This paper contributes to anthropological conversations on contemporary sporting formations in Oceania by highlighting how sport is reimagined and repackaged by Samoan youth, education leaders, and government officials as a development tool to create healthy development futures.
Keywords: Polynesian, Indigenous health, obesity, genetics, risk, migration

Playing with Knowledge: Sport and the Paradox of Development in Solomon Islands
Tom Mountjoy, 325

Abstract: This article addresses particular ideas behind the ideological discourses and practices of development relating to Solomon Islands soccer and the dissemination of knowledge applied to sporting practice. Speaking through the interconnection of local processes linked to global flows of information and practices, this analysis focuses on specific recent attempts by the global governing body fifa and its regional representative, the ofc , to introduce and implement various development programs under the objectives set out in official statutes. I further assess the disparate set of practices and conceptions of the various actors following the 1998–2003 “Tension” period as part of a broader discourse of development systems and interaction. By examining forms of “empowerment” discourse, appropriated by local agents as well as foreign organizations such as fifa , this article suggests a more nuanced and pluralized approach to rethinking contemporary sporting formations and the competing knowledge systems at play throughout the region.
Keywords: Solomon Islands, soccer, development, fifa , sport

Pasifika Diaspora and the Changing Face of Australian Rugby League
David Lakisa, Daryl Adair and Tracy Taylor, 347

Abstract: This article investigates the sociocultural motivations of the Pasifika diaspora in Australian sport in the context of rugby league football. In 2011, some 36 percent of National Rugby League (nrl ) playing contracts were signed by players of Pasifika descent (Heptonstall 2011). There has been an accompanying rise of Pasifika influence in the game: this is apparent on the field with the high profile of star Pasifika players and off the field with the intensification of welfare and education programs intended to accommodate Pasifika athletes in the National Rugby League. The purpose of this article is to critically analyze kinship networks, religious influences, and the sociocultural expectations placed on Pasifika footballers by various stakeholders and to evaluate how these factors either motivate these athletes to play in the National Rugby League or discourage them from doing so. The article explores what these experiences reveal about the nature of Pasifika communities in an Australian context. The material presented draws on the principal author’s original research on Australian rugby league and the experience of athletes of Pasifika descent, as well as his direct experience as a former sports education administrator and as the inaugural Pacific Islander coaching and development officer for the New South Wales Rugby League.
Keywords: Pasifika, rugby league, Australian sport, sociocultural motivations

Participating in the Global Competition: Denaturalizing “Flair” in Samoan Rugby
Julien Clément, 369

Abstract: Sāmoa, Fiji, and Tonga have emerged as strong contenders in international rugby competitions in the last three decades. Meanwhile, rugby has been going through a period of “development” since the creation of the Rugby World Cup in 1987 and the introduction of professionalism in 1995. Here, I present an ethnography of rugby in Sāmoa that focuses on embodiment. Participant observation of practices as well as interviews illuminate how international norms and values are diffused within the sport structure, while a global sporting practice is indigenized and appropriated in the everyday practices of young Samoan men. In Samoan rugby, the emergence of “flair” appears as a category of analysis that naturalizes an embodied characteristic of Samoan village life. By denaturalizing “flair” in Samoan rugby, this article contributes to a critique of this notion, in addition to showing the assemblage that creates rugby in the Islands.
Keywords: sport, rugby, Sāmoa, embodiment, development, masculinity

Beyond the All Blacks Representations: The Dialectic between the Indigenization of Rugby and Postcolonial Strategies to Control Māori
Domenica Gisella Calabrò, 389

Abstract: Since the advent of professional rugby, Māori have gained international visibility and attractiveness. The representation of the New Zealand rugby team revolves around their integration and the incorporation of their warrior tradition, suggesting a strong connection between rugby and contemporary Māori society. Rugby has indeed been the object of a process of indigenization, fulfilling goals of sociocultural continuity, political acknowledgment, and, in the professional era, upward social mobility. Nevertheless, rugby has also partly fulfilled its role as a tool of colonization in creating and sanctioning power differentials. Drawing on my ethnographic fieldwork in New Zealand, this article examines the relationship between Māori and rugby as a dialectic phenomenon that has resulted in the diversification of Māori experiences and perceptions of rugby and attests to the heterogeneity of Māori life experiences, aspirations, and formulations of indigeneity in contemporary society.
Keywords: Māori, New Zealand, rugby, indigenization, flair, branding, body

“Such a Site for Play, This Edge”: Surfing, Tourism, and Modernist Fantasy in Papua New Guinea
Paige West, 411

Abstract: Both sport and tourism are deeply modernist forms that rely on the circulation of people, media, and capital for their endurance. In this article, I analyze both forms through the ethnographic examination of surf-related tourism in Papua New Guinea. For many Papua New Guineans, surf tourism is an avenue for gaining positions in wage labor. For some the development of the industry is an attempt to foster “sustainable” economic development in the country. These forms of participation rely on international tourists who see the sport and the industry in Papua New Guinea as a site for recreation and play. This article deals with these people, surf tourists who visit Papua New Guinea and for whom surfing is a major part of their social identity. Surfing as an embedded, affective practice and a set of deeply socio-ecological propositions about people-in-nature is historically tractable to indigenous Pacific Island societies. It was deterritorialized, or removed from the context of its origin, by Australian and American youth who took up the practice as a sport in the early part of the twentieth century. Today surfing has been reassembled as a form of development in the very places from which it emerged. Through the analysis of the movements of media, people, and capital involved in the surf tourism industry in Papua New Guinea, this article demonstrates the new social assemblages that emerge when labor, development, and play intertwine.
Keywords: tourism, Papua New Guinea, fantasy, sport, development

Sports, Bodies, and Futures: An Epilogue
Niko Besnier, 435

Abstract: Since their invention in mid-nineteenth century Britain, modern sports have traveled: first, as they were exported to all regions of the world, often piggybacking on colonial projects; second, as sports are often brought to troubled economies and states in the context of development and reconciliation projects; and third, as athletes moved across national and other borders to play and seek a livelihood by playing. Athlete mobility is more alive than ever in the contemporary world, and Pacific Islanders’ participation in this mobility is disproportionate to the visibility of their nations on the global stage. Understanding the meaning of sport in the region, however, raises important questions whose implications reach beyond the confines of sport: the workings of power in a world in which bodies become commodities; the conflicts that arise between different epistemologies of development and resource use; and the clashes between different conceptualizations of the future.
Keywords: sport, body, future, globalization, mobility, migration, development


Rules of the Game: Resources for Researching Pacific Islands Sport
D Keali‘i MacKenzie, 448


The Region in Review: International Issues and Events, 2013
Nic Maclellan, 460

Melanesia in Review: Issues and Events, 2013: Fiji
Jon Fraenkel, 476

Melanesia in Review: Issues and Events, 2013: New Caledonia
David Chappell, 495

Melanesia in Review: Issues and Events, 2013: Papua
Muridan S Widjojo, 506

Melanesia in Review: Issues and Events, 2013: Solomon Islands
Gordon Leua Nanau, 516

Melanesia in Review: Issues and Events, 2013: Vanuatu
Howard Van Trease, 524


Don’t Ever Whisper: Darlene Keju, Pacific Health Pioneer for Nuclear Survivors, by Giff Johnson
Reviewed by Holly M Barker, 556

Securing Paradise: Tourism and Militarism in Hawai‘i and the Philippines,
by Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez
Reviewed by Maile Arvin, 558

L’ONU, la France et les décolonisations tardives: L’exemple des terres françaises d’Océanie, by Jean-Marc Regnault
Reviewed by Nic Maclellan, 561

Tax Havens and Sovereignty in the Pacific Islands, by Anthony B Van Fossen
Reviewed by Siobhan McDonnell, 563

Summoning the Powers Beyond: Traditional Religions in Micronesia, by Jay Dobbin
Reviewed by David Hanlon, 566

Making Sense of Micronesia: The Logic of Pacific Island Culture, by Francis X Hezel, SJ
Reviewed by Joseph H Genz, 569

Polynesian Outliers: The State of the Art, edited by Richard Feinberg and Richard Scaglion
Reviewed by Mark A Calamia, 571

The Haus Tambaran of Bongiora: A View from Within of the Tambaran and Yam Cults of the Abelam in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea, by Godfried Johan Marie Gerrits
Reviewed by Paul Roscoe, 574

Christian Politics in Oceania edited by Matt Tomlinson and Debra McDougall
Reviewed by Anna-Karina Hermkens, 576

Mr. Pip directed by Andrew Adamson
Reviewed by Nancy J Pollock, 579

Breadfruit and Open Spaces, directed by Lola Quan Bautista
Reviewed by Sheryl A Day, 581

Savage Memory: How Do We Remember Our Dead? Directed by Zachary Stuart and Kelly Thomson
Reviewed by David Lipset, 583

Moana: The Rising of the Sea, directed by Peter Rockford Espiritu
Reviewed by Kara Miller, 585

Contributors, 589