Ua tafea le tau'ofe: Samoan cultural rituals through death and bereavement experiences
Seiuli, B. M. S. (2015). Ua tafea le tau’ofe: Samoan cultural rituals through death and bereavement experiences (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9233
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9233
Given that dialogue relating to death and grief for many Samoans remains in the realm of tapu (sacred) or sā (protected), few attempts have been made by researchers of Samoan heritage to understand whether the cultural contexts for enacting associated rituals might also provide avenues for healing. Psychological scholarship on recovery following death, particularly among men, is largely based on dominant western perspectives that continue to privilege both clinical and ethnocentric perspectives as the norm. Using the Samoan experience, I argue for a greater consideration of recovery from death as a culturally-defined process. In many instances, instead of severing ties with the deceased person as is popular in clinical approaches to grief work, this thesis makes an original contribution to the canon by demonstrating that Samoan grief resolution strongly endorses continued connections through its mourning rituals. Their end-of-life enactment helps to transition the deceased from this life to the next, while drawing the living together. Critically, the performance and maintenance of such important tasks create space for heaving emotions to be calmed, where meaning is made, and where the lives of those impacted are slowly restored. Some rituals offered therapeutic value, enabling the Samoan men involved in this study to walk hand-in-hand with their emotional distress, while transitioning them through the grieving process. Such mourning traditions are meaningful and culturally preferred. Moreover, the theoretical framework engaged by this research is predominantly informed by Samoan and Pasefika research perspectives such as the Uputāua Therapeutic Approach (UTA). UTA is firmly grounded in fa’asamoa (Samoan way) cultural traditions, while allowing space for western perspectives of therapeutic care to be incorporated into the research processes. This thesis critically advocates that psychology as a discipline could become more responsive and effective towards considering the centrality of indigenous perspectives of grief resolution when engaging with people from non-western cultures. As this thesis demonstrates, Samoan mourning rituals provided a significant pathway for my participants to validate and celebrate their cultural identity wherever they were situated.
University of Waikato
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