Despite Albert Wendt’s departure from the formal discipline of history as a graduate student, he has established himself at the center of an alternate, influential stream of Pacific history writing. This has turned on the crafting of a new relationship to the past that is radical and dissenting, not only against colonialism, but certain iterations of indigenous culture, politics, and tradition. Wendt pursues this not only through remembering ancestral lives and worlds, but also through inventions and innovative appropriations—such as the Samoan cowboy. Cowboys appear repeatedly in Wendt’s work, often at crucial junctures. But his utilization of the cowboy is not, as some might suppose, simply imaginative. As early as 1914 Samoans had appropriated cowboy films and narratives, and cowboys were to remain compelling and powerful features in Samoan life, as they were in other colonized locations from New Zealand to the Congo. The mythic qualities of the cowboy that appealed to some Samoans are much the same as those that Wendt orchestrates in his work through cowboys. The Samoans who laid claim to being cowboys were inhabiting a renegade, dangerous masculinity, one that was decisive and good, which opposed colonialism but which was also critical of many dimensions of tradition and local life. As such, the Samoan cowboy is a specially revealing figure not only for Wendt’s work, but for understanding the Samoan past.


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pp. 330-348
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