A Samoan studies professor at the National University of Samoa introduces a new word, fa’asinomaga (identity) in the mid 1990s. A teacher rehearses a skit with a room full of Samoan teens on a chilly summer day in a working class neighborhood of San Francisco in July 2002. A librarian in Carson prepares herself for a Samoan linguistics conference to be held in New Zealand in the winter of 2003. These three events, separated in place and time evoke both the scope and orientations of the Samoan diaspora as well as give a glimpse of an active and ongoing attempt to keep a traditional culture current in face of the culturally homogenizing influence of globalization.
This paper has two parts. In the first part I will briefly explore the Samoan conceptions of culture and identity. In the second part I will look at how one Samoan teacher has applied identity principles in a summer youth program in San Francisco. Ultimately I will argue that this attempted cultural reification is an example of, what I will call, ‘applied identity.’