Decolonising Knowledge and Gender in the Pacific

Sia Figiel’s Insider View of Samoan Women in Freelove

  • Paola Della Valle University of Turin


The trivialization of Pacific Islanders’ existence, exposed in travel books and fiction on the ‘South Seas’ from the late 18th century to the present, includes a view of Polynesian women as sexually saturated figures, in which exoticism and eroticism overlap. The theories of anthropologists, synthesized in the Mead-Freeman controversy on female sexuality in Samoa, reflect an instrumental use of indigenous cultures to demonstrate preconceptual hypotheses. Samoan writer Sia Figiel has been one of the first Pacific Islands women to offer an insider representation of Pacific femininity. Her works reflect the “decolonial turn” advocated by Maria Lugones to reject the hierarchical dichotomies and categorial logic of the Western episteme, and affirm that “fractured locus” which allows multiple ontological presuppositions. Her latest novel Freelove (2016), analysed in this article, is centred on the coming of age of a Samoan girl in the 1980s and offers an unprecedented viewpoint on Samoan female sexuality, from an indigenous perspective.