Accepted Paper:

Globalized Reciprocity: Development of Fine Mat Exchange in Samoan Transnationalism  


Matori Yamamoto (Hosei University)

Paper short abstract:

Although cash economy has been developed in Samoa, the moral of reciprocity is still persisting. The core of reciprocity is ceremonial exchange involving fine mats which has been practiced not only by local Samoans but migrant Samoans as well. In a way, the reciprocity has been extended with the expansion of the Samoan world.

Paper long abstract:

I would examine the development of fine mat exchange in order to demonstrate the persistence of reciprocity in the contemporary transnational Samoan world. Samoan fine mats are valuables elaborately woven only by the hands of women. Fine mats without utility values are used as gifts in ceremonial contexts. They have been often explained as a currency since they circulate within the society. They were important tōga which should be reciprocated for 'oloa (used to be mainly food but including money nowadays) in ceremonial exchanges. The affluent remittances by Samoan migrants activated ceremonial exchanges at home after WWII. Not only that, Samoan ceremonial exchanges were brought to be practiced outside of Samoa as the expansion of the Samoan migration. Reciprocity between homeland Samoans and their overseas relations brought many fine mats overseas and in order to produce more fine mats the quality of fine mats became so rough. Since many fine mats are circulated in migrant communities, the ceremonies overseas are more extravagant than those at home. Recently, the Samoan government intervened with a cultural policy of conserving traditional technology of authentic fine mat weaving. It is not only a cultural conservation program but also an implementation of female income generation. The policy pushed new fine mats of high quality in the realm of commodities. Nevertheless, it is important to note that commodification of fine mats has been supported by the ceremonial exchange. Because Samoans cannot do without giving fine mats in ceremonies, they need to buy. The reciprocity is still quite important part of moral economy for Samoans.

Panel MMM31
The causes and diversity of migration processes (IUAES Commission on Migration and Diaspora)