An interview with Dion Enari
Our guest this week is Dion Enari, an Aotearoa/New Zealand-born Samoan and current PhD candidate in the Faculty of Society and Design, Bond University, Australia. Dion is the Bond University 3-Minute Thesis Winner 2018 and holds the high talking chief title Lefaoali’i from Lepa, Samoa. His research areas include mental health, qualitative methodology, Pacific studies, decolonization, transnationalism, and Indigenous studies. Dion holds a Bachelors in Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services and a Masters of International Relations from Griffith University, Australia. His research has been published in academic outlets including Journal of Global Indigeneity, Te Kaharoa Indigenous Journal, Oceania, Journal of Indigenous Social Development, and Mai: A New Zealand Journal of Indigenous Scholarship. Dion has also featured as author and interviewed on several national and international media platforms including ABC News, The Guardian, Radio New Zealand, Samoa Observer, and The CocoNet. Dion was a keynote speaker at the Australian Association of Pacific Studies Postgraduate Conference in 2021.
Hello, Dion, and thanks for joining me at morethanhumanworlds.com. Could you tell us how you came to be interested in the intersections of qualitative methodologies, Pacific studies, decolonization, transnationalism, and Indigenous studies, both personally and intellectually?
Malo lava le soifua i le lagi e mama (warm greetings in the highest),
Whilst I was in my Mother’s womb, I was already preordained to serve my people, through learning and teaching our cultural knowledge (Enari & Fa’aea, 2020; Fa’aea & Enari, 2021; Enari & Matapo, 2021; Enari & Matapo, 2020). As I grew up, I began to understand the importance of my cultural knowledge and its need to be perpetuated as soon as possible. Being a Samoan in Australia, I knew I had to learn and navigate the Western-centric system and my own ancestral knowledge (Enari & Faleolo, 2020). As I see my people, I understand the importance of bringing our Pacific/Indigenous issues into the academy. There is a lot of white-washing of knowledge within higher education and a need to decolonize curricula. My research interests are important, both to my aiga (family) andto wider Australian and international discussions (Enari & Taula, 2022). As a Samoan son, it will be my lifework to privilege and centre our knowledge systems, for the betterment of the next generation.
A prominent theme in your scholarship is the Pacific concept of vā. Could you explain the concept of vā to us, how it manifests in everyday life, social relationships, and institutional structures, and how it has transformed or been strengthened in the context of the coronavirus pandemic?
The concept of vā (relational space) in Samoan and Pacific terms is a way of ensuring all relationships
are maintained in respect and good spirits. It manifests everyday in how Samoan people respect their
family members, the wider community, and the environment. Through tausi vā (nurturing relationships)
Samoan people are able to collaboratively work together to ensure productivity that is grounded upon
love (Enari & Faleolo, 2020; Enari & Fa’aea, 2020). The warmth and love within the vā has been strengthened
throughout the coronavirus pandemic (Enari & Faleolo, 2020; Enari & Fa’aea, 2020). The virus has meant
Samoan and Pacific people have had to increasingly depend on and support one another. Through these
increased transactions in the form of monetary remittances and moral support, the connections within the
vā have been further strengthened. Our collective nature and good vā have helped us survive and sustain
ourselves throughout and despite the pandemic.
In addition to publishing in academic outlets, you also actively disseminate your research findings through news and media outlets. What topics or themes have you explored in these media features, and why do you think it’s important for scholars to engage with broader, public audiences?
I have explored a wide range of themes and issues, as they pertain to Samoan, Pacific, and Indigenous peoples. My dissemination of research has ranged from radio interviews on cancel culture as it relates to Pacific Islanders, to television interviews on mental health in the Pacific. I believe it is crucial for scholars to engage with the wider community, as they are the people whom research is meant to benefit. We must never place our research knowledge and outputs in a way that is inaccessible for the general public, as knowledge is to be shared and not gate-kept.
You recently co-authored an article with Aiono Manu Fa'aea for a special issue on “Oceanic Societies in COVID-19,” published by Oceania, and titled “E tumau le fa'avae ae fesuia'i faiga: Pasifika Resilience During COVID‐19.” What forms of resilience does this article explore, and how do these forms of resilience relate to Pacific cultures, ways of life, and values?
This article explores the collective resilience of Pacific Island communities in diaspora and the Islands. It shows that Pacific people at their core are interconnected and collective. Through our collective notions of service and support, we are able to succeed in an ever increasing globalized world. Aiono Manu Fa’aea and I believed it was important to highlight this issue through our article because our collective and supportive notions of being are rarely spoken of within the public discourse.
In essence, our people have always been collective and will continue to be collective far beyond our time.
Finally, Dion, what advice would you give to young scholars interested in studying human-environment relations, in the Pacific and elsewhere?
My advice would be to always create with the people. Never create research about them or over them
(Enari, 2021). Research must always be done in collaboration, and it must be done with the blessing
and guidance of the specific cultures, customs, and beliefs of the people (Lemusuifeauaali’i & Enari,
2021; Matapo & Enari, 2021). Pacific knowledge systems must always be used and privileged to ensure
respect for Pacific people and their environments, and this also helps to ensure accurate research
(Chao & Enari, 2021; Enari & Rangiwai, 2021). Findings and research outputs must be used to enact
positive change for the Pacific peoples you are working with. As Pacific peoples have gifted you with
their knowledge to carry out your research, so too you must in turn gift your work back to serve Pacific people.
Alofa atu (much love).
Dion Enari during his Saofa’i (Chief investiture ceremony) with Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.
Chao, S & Enari, D. (2021) Decolonizing Climate Change: A Call for Beyond-Human Imaginaries and Knowledge Generation. eTropic: electronic journal of studies in the tropics. Available at https://journals.jcu.edu.au/etropic/article/view/3796.
Enari, D. (2021). Methodology marriage: Merging Western and Pacific research design. https://ir.canterbury.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10092/101590/5%20Methodology.pdf?sequence=5
Enari, D., & Fa'aea, A. M. (2020). E tumau le fa'avae ae fesuia'i faiga: Pasifika Resilience During COVID‐19. Oceania, 90, 75-80. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ocea.5269
Enari, D. & Faleolo, R. (2020) Pasifika well-being during the COVID-19 crisis: Samoans and Tongans in Brisbane. Journal of Indigenous Social Development, 110-127. https://journalhosting.ucalgary.ca/index.php/jisd/article/view/70734/54415
Enari, D. & Matapo, J. (2021) Negotiating the relational vā in the University: A transnational Pasifika standpoint during the Covid-19 pandemic. Journal of Global Indigeneity.https://www.journalofglobalindigeneity.com/article/19436-navigating-the-digital-va-va-centring-moana-pacific-values-in-online-tertiary-settings-during-covid-19
Enari, D. & Matapo, J. (2020) The Digital Vā: Pasifika education innovation during the Covid-19 pandemic. MAI Journal, 9(4), 7-11 http://www.journal.mai.ac.nz/sites/default/files/MAI_Jrnl_2020_V9_4_Enari_02.pdf
Enari, D & Rangiwai, B (2021). Digital innovation and funeral practices: Māori and Samoan perspectives during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Alternative journal (Forthcoming)
Enari, D & Taula, L. (2022) Pacific Island Pride: How we navigate Australia. Journal of Contemporary Pacific (Forthcoming)
Fa'aea, A. M. & Enari, D (2021). The pathway to leadership is through service: Exploring the Samoan tautua lifecycle. In Pacific Dynamics: Journal of interdisciplinary research. https://ir.canterbury.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10092/101592/7%20Tautua-final.pdf?sequence=5&isAllowed=y
Lemusuifeauaali’i, E & Enari, D. (2021). DUA TANI: (Re)evolving Identities of Pacific Islanders. Te Kaharoa, 17(1). https://doi.org/10.24135/tekaharoa.v17i1.342
Matapo, J & Enari, D (2021) Re-imagining the dialogic spaces of talanoa through Samoan onto-epistemology. In Waikato Journal of education (Forthcoming)
"Through tausi vā (nurturing relationships) Samoan people are able to collaboratively work together to ensure productivity that is grounded upon love."
"Always create with the people. Never create research about them or over them."