Empowerment and constraint : the cultural legacy of indigenous and colonial religion and its impact on women in Samoa
Religion, both indigenous and colonial, is an important aspect of Samoa’s cultural legacy. This thesis examines aspects of the religious lives of Samoan women as shaped by that legacy. Using data gained during fieldwork, along with historical and cultural insights, I have shown how religion in Samoa can both empower and constrain Samoan women. To inform this study I have used feminist methodologies and have suggested that a feminist theory of religion, which acknowledges human agency, is necessary so that the complex reality of women’s religious lives can be examined more sympathetically. Through an interdisciplinary approach, this study seeks to demonstrate that Samoan women have created meaningful religious spaces for themselves, despite the fact that limitations do exist within the various religious and cultural milieu of Samoa. The religious environment in Samoa is heterogeneous despite claims to the contrary. The religions/denominations selected for study demonstrate that heterogeneity, these are; the vestiges of the Samoan indigenous religion; the Congregationalist, Methodist, Catholic and Charismatic Christian Churches; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Bahá’í Faith. Individual chapters discuss specific aspects of the religion/denomination as highlighted by Samoan women.