Micah Van der Ryn
Grant TypeHunt Postdoctoral Fellowship
Institutional AffiliationAmerican Samoa Community College
Grant numberGr. 9320
Approve DateOctober 4, 2016
Project TitleVan der Ryn, Dr. Micah G., American Samoa Community Col., Pago Pago, American Samoa - To aid research and writing on 'Circles to Squares: Houses and the Habitus of Culture and Change in Samoa' - Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship
DR. MICAH VAN DER RYN, American Samoa Community College, was awarded a Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship in October 2016 to aid research and writing on “Circles to Squares: Houses and the Habitus of Culture and Change in Samoa.” Based on four years of PhD fieldwork in villages of both American Samoa and Samoa and longer-range observations starting from 1972 when the author lived for six weeks with a Samoan family in a village of Western Samoa, this book takes the ontological turn in ethnographically investigating key questions about the agentive, mutually constitutive relationship between built forms and space and the sociocultural forms of producing, inhabiting, and valuing those forms and spaces. How changing architecture and changing society inter-relate within a changing Samoa – localized to transnationalized – constitutes a core empirical question. Over the fellowship year the author has worked to revise the original thesis in numerous ways. A new opening chapter provides an overarching perspective, demonstrating the importance of the core questions to both anthropology and to humanity more generally. It also provides a personal narrative from which these questions develop – starting with growing up in Berkeley in the 1960s as the son of radical, pioneering ecological architect, Sim Van der Ryn, then solo trip at the age of eleven to Samoa to live for several months with a Samoan family in their village. This self-reflective thread becomes a natural integral, non-disruptive thread within the ethnography as marriage, children, employment and bestowal of a Samoan chieftain title draws the author increasingly into the fold of a transnational Samoan society.