Siaosi Ilaiu

Doctor of Philosophy, (Social Anthropology)
Study Completed: 2019
College of Humanities & Social Sciences


Thesis Title
Paradigm Shifts in Ancient Kingship Traditions in Tonga. A Historical and Anthropological examination of political practices and changes throughout the bi-partite and try-partite systems of government 1350-1875 AD: The Case of Hau.

In the early 1980s and 90s, Pacific historians and anthropologists questioned the nature of paramount authority in the pre-European Tongan political system, though this debate ceased in 1995. Mr Ilaiu reignited the debate by assessing the credibility of current literature on the topic and undertaking a regional study into western Polynesia that uniquely combined oral traditions with archival research. Mr Ilaiu demonstrated that secular rule underwent several paradigm shifts before contact with the western world, an aspect of the Tongan political system overlooked by scholars. He also showed that critique to date has been anachronistic, ahistorical, and one-dimensional. As such, he advocated for a new refractive methodological approach that could better illustrate the process of change and address a lack in traditional comparative approaches.

Dr Graeme MacRae
Associate Professor Malakai Koloamatangi