In Coconut Colonialism: Workers and the Globalization of Samoa (Harvard UP, 2022), Holger Droessler provides a novel history of the impact of globalization on Sāmoa and vice versa. Using a series of case studies, he shows how Samoan workers responded to the rise of capitalism and colonialism in the Pacific in the decades just before and after 1900. Ordinary Samoans — some on large plantations, others on their own small holdings — picked and processed coconuts and cocoa, tapped rubber trees, and built roads and ports that brought cash crops to Europe and North America. Samoans also participated in ethnographic shows around the world, turning them into diplomatic missions and making friends with fellow colonized peoples. Droessler examines the ‘workspaces’ Samoans found constructed as the starting point for what he calls a new “Oceanian globality” through which Samoan used existing colonial structures to advance their own agency and find ways to press their own agendas and regain a degree of independence. Based on research in multiple languages and countries, Coconut Colonialism offers new insights into the global history of labor and empire at the dawn of the twentieth century.

In this episode of the podcast, channel host Alex Golub speaks to Holger Droessler about the Pacific roots of the concept of “Oceanian globality”, the value of German language sources for the largely-anglophone field of Pacific History, and the way colonialism and globalization but created a space which both limited and empowered Samoan agency.

Alex Golub is associate professor of anthropology, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

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