March 6, 2017
2:30pm to 4:00pm
2125 Rolfe Hall

The Department of Gender Studies presents 

Juliann Anesi

UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, UC Berkeley, Gender and Women’s Studies Department


Reframing Tautua: Disabled Women, Service, and Education in Samoa


Monday, March 6th


2125 Rolfe Hall


In the 1970s, allies, educators, parents and women with disabilities established Aoga Fiamalamalama and Loto Taumafai, two schools for students with intellectual and physical disabilities in the independent state of Samoa. In this talk, I explore how the disabled women organizers challenged the ableist educational system by drawing attention to the exclusion of students with disabilities. Specifically, I trace how the women organizers reframed tautua, a Samoan cultural concept usually defined as one’s obligation to customary and familial events.  Traditionally, tautau recognizes one’s service to the church and the village, as with the roles played by male chiefs or ali’i.  But how did disabled Samoan women resist such patriarchal and hierarchal facets of tautua? And how did they influence human rights and disability policies in the Pacific region? By drawing from oral histories, I examine how the disabled women organizers used tautau to decolonize cultural practices and K-8 education in Samoa and elsewhere. In this regard, the disabled women reframed tautua to recognize their everyday work while also critiquing the ableist and patriarchal meanings of leadership and inclusion.


Juliann Anesi is a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley in the Gender and Women’s Studies Department. In 2015, she received her Ph.D. in Special Education and Disability Studies from Syracuse University. Her research interests focus on educational policies, indigenous women with disabilities, and intellectual and physical disabilities in the Pacific Islands. Juliann is also a former Board member of the Society of Disability Studies, and has worked with non-profit organizations and schools in American Samoa, California, Hawai´i, New York, and Samoa. Currently, she is developing a book manuscript, Women’s Tautua: Education and Disability Advocacy in Samoa.