Home Volume 7 no.1 The Reconstruction of a Sāmoan Village: Quest for the Spatial Narration of...

The Reconstruction of a Sāmoan Village: Quest for the Spatial Narration of the Mythological origin and the Social Structure of Poutasi

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Werner Hennings, Faculty of Sociology, Bielefeld University.

Abstract

In 2009 the traditional village centre of Poutasi was destroyed by a tsunami and a majority of the inhabitants since have abandoned the old settlement. Only a few of the former residents repaired or reconstructed their houses at the traditional site at and around the village square; most of them decided to adopt a settlement development which increasingly took into account a persistent trend: to meet the requirements of modern mobility and to live at or near the road. As a result of this shift the village has lost its traditional public space, the village square, but at the same time it has not found a similar place at the road. Although most central institutions of the village and the district today are located at the main road within a small distance from each other, there is no public square where people can meet, communicate and celebrate their festivities as they were used to do at the traditional square. The loss of the traditional village centre is not only a loss of sociability, but also a loss of the social identity of the village: The traditional village square and its surrounding buildings once reflected the legendary origin and the social structure of the village as described by the Sāmoan mythology as documented in the 19th century fa’alupēga, a ceremonial salutation of greeting made on formal occasions, which refers to the historical justification of the village hierarchy of chiefs. The loss of the traditional village centre of Poutasi means the loss of an important part of the Sāmoan spatial archives.

Keywords: Sāmoa, social organisation, village, social change, disaster response, spatial organisation.

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