Date of Award

December 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Beth A. Ferri

Second Advisor

Vivian M. May


Disability Studies, Inclusive education, Ma'i (sickness), Non-government organizations, Parent and Cultural Advocacy, Women organizing

Subject Categories



In the 1970s and 1980s, Samoan women organizers established Aoga Fiamalamalama and Loto Taumafai, which were educational institutions in Samoa, an island in the Pacific. Establishing these schools for students with intellectual and physical disabilities, excluded from attending formal schools based on the misconception that they were "uneducable". In this project, I seek to understand how parent advocates, allies, teachers, women organizers, women with disabilities, and former students of these schools understood disability, illness, inclusive education, and community organizing. Through interviews and analysis of archival documents, stories, cultural myths, legends related to people with disabilities, pamphlets, and newspaper media, I examine how disability advocates and people with disabilities interact with educational and cultural discourses to shape programs for the empowerment of people with disabilities. I argue that the notions of ma’i (sickness), activism, and disability inform the Samoan context, and by understanding, their influence on human rights and educational policies can inform our biased attitudes on ableism and normalcy.


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