Department or Program



In this senior thesis research, I investigated how religion and colonization were entangled in the relationship between snakes and people in Sāmoa in the mid-1800s and today. I use ethnographic and historical material to explore how gata (Pacific Boa snakes) have related to the fa’asāmoa (Sāmoan way) through time, and how their material and semiotic presence evidences the politics of feeling and affect in these particular places and times. I borrowed the Sāmoan notion of the vā (relational space that is lived) to make sense of the separation between “the human” and the “animal” in Sāmoa, using the concept as a framework for seeing and feeling power structures, and unsettling the binaries of human/animal, material/semiotic, and reason/emotion. By focusing on the vā and affect theory – an anthropological approach that highlights forces of encounter and the capacity to move and be moved – I explored overlapping notions of gender, race, sexuality in the interspecific relationship between gata and tagata (snakes and people) in two different historical moments.

Level of Access

Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access

First Advisor

Lyon, Jacqueline

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file


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