School of Humanities



Benjamin Sacks

Start date

Feb 2013

Submission date

Jan 2017

Curriculum vitae

Benjamin Sacks CV
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Updated 22 Feb 2016

Benjamin Sacks

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‘Purely of their own manufacture’: the adoption and appropriation of cricket in Samoa, 1884-1939


This thesis explores the ways that the quintessentially English game of cricket has been embraced, reshaped and reoriented in the Pacific Island nation of Samoa. Sport emerged in the mid-nineteenth century as an important process of cultural transfer from Britain to her imperial possessions and interests. Through sport were transferred dominant British beliefs regarding social behaviour, relations, and conformity.

Cricket was the first successful sporting import in the Samoan context. In the years after Samoans first played the game in the 1880s, cricket persisted as a significant and highly visible expression of Samoan cultural identity. Other imperial sports – principally rugby union, gridiron, and baseball – were also introduced to Samoa and became similarly important instruments for developing and reflecting local identity.

This common narrative conceals fundamentally different processes and modes of adoption, however. Whereas other sports prospered in something approaching their orthodox forms, cricket was recast as the distinctively Pacific game of kirikiti. The central concern of this thesis is to examine and account for this divergence, and to map its significance to Europeans [papalagi] and Samoans in the context of colonialism. Why did Samoans embrace a ‘quiet and serious’ English sport as their ‘national’ pastime? How and why did ‘cricket’ become kirikiti, and how did this transformation shape Samoan-papalagi relationships?

Why my research is important

In answering these questions, this thesis addresses the paucity of scholarship examining the manifestations of European sport in the Pacific islands. While similar work has focused on other colonial locales, historians have overwhelmingly neglected the region despite its robust sporting culture. Responding to this deficit, my thesis argues that kirikiti provides a distinctive example of an indigenous population negotiating cultural forms introduced through empire.


  • RTP Domestic Fees Offset (no stipend)
  • UWA Completion Scholarship
  • Overseas Travel Award
  • Australian Postgraduate Award
  • UWA Safety-Net Top-Up Scholarship