Micah Van der Ryn

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

American Samoa Community College

Grant number

Gr. 9320

Approve Date

October 4, 2016

Project Title

Van 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

Preliminary abstract: The proposed project will be a book based on my PhD research, which involved four years of fieldwork in villages of American Samoa and Independent Samoa, investigating cultural dynamics and implications of changes in Samoan architectural traditions and socio-spatial practices from 1940 to 2006. Analysis integrates and develops current anthropological theoretical areas, including habitus, House Society, materiality and agency, cultural landscapes, place and space, and the emergent indigenous Pacific (time-space) Theory — to develop ethnographically grounded understandings about the reciprocal mutually constituting relationship between tangible dimensions of built environment and intangible dimensions of culture in the context of a changing, transnationalizing Samoa. Sixty plus years ago most Samoan houses were the traditional Samoan fale — posted, open walled structures with round bee-hive like thatched roofs. Under the pressures of globalization, Samoans increasingly, incorporated new imported industrially produced building materials and made design changes in different combinations — adding walls, and rooms, extensions, square floor plans, and so forth, thus, affecting and reflecting changes in socio-cultural practices and beliefs. The book will present an ethnographically rich, theoretical account of the significance that Samoan buildings and their spaces have within Samoan culture and social life, and the agency and materiality by which they are designed, constructed and utilized. This effort will mark an important contribution to the anthropology of architecture, deepening anthropological understandings about how design, construction and use of built forms and spaces plays an active and integral role in broader processes of culture and society In turn, this work is expected to provide useful inputs for continued developments in social theory.