‘Let fa’afafine shine like diamonds’: Balancing accommodation, negotiation and resistance in gender-nonconforming Samoans’ counter-hegemony

Yoko Kanemasu

In the Pacific Island country of Samoa, a gender-nonconforming community known as fa’afafine is said to constitute part of customary tradition and therefore enjoy cultural legitimacy. Yet fa’afafine are also confronted with a binary gender discourse that daily marginalises them within families/communities. This article explores fa’afafine’s gendered positioning in contemporary Samoa and the ways in which they have negotiated it to carve out space for oppositional agency, focusing on the strategies employed by the Samoa Fa’afafine Association. Based on semi-structured interviews with fa’afafine and other gender-nonconforming Samoans, and guided by Pacific methodology of Talanoa, the article examines fa’afafine’s collective pursuits as a case of counter-hegemonic struggle through a Gramscian theoretical lens. If their acts of resistance are covert and incremental, they are effective in aligning Samoa’s powerful cultural institutions with an alternative gender discourse to cultivate social change. The article closes with reflections on possible challenges to this counter-hegemony.

Research Type(s)
Journal Article
Submitted by Almah Tararia
May 31, 2022
Published in
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