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The Australian National University

The Trial of Ta’isi O. F. Nelson: New Zealand’s Colonial Justice and Indigenous Resistance in 1930s Sāmoa

Date and time

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 - 16:15 - 17:30


McDonald Room, Menzies Library, ANU

This is a seminar about the extraordinary 1933–1934 trial of Ta’isi O. F. Nelson in Apia. The trial was the culmination of a harsh campaign of exile and public disgrace waged against the Sāmoan nationalist leader by conservative New Zealand governments since 1926. The government assumed Ta’isi’s trial would be quick and surgical. However, Ta’isi altered the course of events, transforming the court case into a trial of New Zealand’s rule of the Mandated Territory of Western Sāmoa and its greater whole, the British Empire. This paper examines this fascinating episode in the history of the Mau (the interwar Sāmoan nationalist movement), highlighting Ta’isi’s exceptional efforts to achieve justice for Sāmoa and the extremely fraught judicial system in New Zealand’s League of Nations mandate of Western Sāmoa.

Patricia O’Brien is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the School of History at Australian National University. She is the author of Tautai: Sāmoa, World History and the Life of Ta’isi O. F. Nelson (University of Hawai’i Press, forthcoming 2017) and The Pacific Muse: Exotic Femininity and the Colonial Pacific (University of Washington Press, 2006); an co-edited collection with Joy Damousi, League of Nations: Histories, Legacies and Impact (University of Melbourne Press, forthcoming 2018); and numerous chapters and articles on race, gender, and colonial history. She was the J. D. Stout Fellow in New Zealand Studies at Victoria University of Wellington (2012), the Jay I. Kislak Fellow in American Studies at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress (2011), and visiting Associate Professor in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, Washington D. C. (2001 to 2013).
School of History Seminar Series
ANU College

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