Second Generation Tongan Identity Journeys

February 19, 4:00pm - 5:15pm
Mānoa Campus, Crawford 115 Add to Calendar

“Leaving Home, Going ‘Home’: Second Generation Tongan Identity Journeys” by Helen Lee, La Trobe University

In this presentation, Helen Lee will discuss the particular experiences of “home” for overseas-born Tongan youth who are sent to attend high school in Tonga in response to concerns about their behavior. For these young people, going “home” to Tonga is perceived as a form of punishment, and this is reinforced by the highly ambivalent welcome they receive. Framed by the adults responsible for them as an opportunity to “learn the culture,” this enforced identity journey is for many young Tongans a bewildering and traumatic experience. However, for other young people who are sent to Tonga or who choose to go, the experience is more positive, even life transforming. Dr Lee considers the factors that influence these varying outcomes.

The idea of “home” is not simple for the children of migrants, particularly those who maintain transnational connections to their parents’ homeland. The home/s in which they were raised are both their family households, within which their parents’ culture may be enacted and embodied, and the host country, to which many feel a sense of belonging, at least to some extent. Their ties to the homeland further complicate their understanding of home, which can make it difficult to feel a true sense of belonging anywhere.

The session will be chaired by CPIS Teaching Assistant and MA student Lee Kava and panelists Patricia Fifita, Lose JʻNelle ʻUluʻave, and Siufaga Lousiale Kava will respond to Professor Lee’s presentation.

Helen Lee is Professor of Anthropology and Head of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in the School of Social Sciences and Communications at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. Since the 1980s, her research has focused on the people of Tonga, both in their home islands in the South Pacific and in the diaspora, particularly in Australia. She has published widely on migration and transnationalism, with a particular focus on the children of migrants, including journal articles, book chapters, and the books Becoming Tongan: An Ethnography of Childhood (1996); Tongans Overseas: Between Two Shores (2003); Ties to the Homeland: Second Generation Transnationalism (2008); and Migration and Transnationalism: Pacific Perspectives, co-edited with Steve Tupai Francis (2009).

Lee Kava is a MA candidate and teaching assistant at the Center for Pacific Islands Studies. Her current research focuses on music as an expression of Tongan identity and a medium for political and creative activism. Patricia Fitita is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at UH Mānoa. Lose JʻNelle ʻUluʻave graduated from UH Mānoa with a Bachelor of Science in Biology in 2010. Siufaga Lousiale Kava is a currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Accounting at Chaminade University.

Co-sponsored by Department for Ethnic Studies and Department of Anthropology

Ticket Information
Free and open to the public

Event Sponsor
Center for Pacific Islands Studies, Mānoa Campus

More Information
Katherine Higgins, 808-956-2658,

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