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From Navigating the Seas to Navigating the Skies: Unloading Tongan Knowledge through the Undercurrents of Airline Employment in the Ano Māsima


One of the main reasons for Tongans immigrating to the United States (U.S.) was to enter into tertiary schooling and further one’s knowledge within colleges and universities (Hafoka, ‘Ulu‘ave & Hafoka, 2014). As this has been an aspiration for many Tongan people entering the U.S. for themselves and/or their posterity, another location of knowledge attainment and financial sustainability has become a prevalent force within the Tongan U.S. diasporic community, the airlines. The study takes place in the Ano Māsima, or known as the Salt Lake Valley, due to the influx of Tongans that reside in Utah compared to other parts of the U.S. (US Census Bureau, 2015; EPIC, 2014; Davidson, 2011). The purpose of this study is to explore the phenomenon of how Tongans in the U.S. utilize the airline industry to maintain connections to the sources of Tongan knowledge, which is people (our relationships), and place (where they reside, and our homelands). Also, to better understand reasoning of the influx of Tongans within the airline industry. Through the lenes of Tā-Vā and Critical Race Theories, the study revealed knowledge of air travel to fly around the world to learn and connect, a sense of community and family nurtured within the workplace, and a form of knowledge production created through the undercurrents. The findings reveal content and resources to support marginalized communities (such as Tongans) through seeking to better engage with these groups beyond schooling, and recognizing recommendations regarding the study (such as data disaggregation (mixed race), labor and school experiences, etc.).

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