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Navigating Athletic Labor: American Football & The “Polynesian Pipeline”

The AAC, Campus Recreation & Carolina Athletics welcome Dr. Lisa Upresa to discuss her book “Gridiron Capital: How American Football Became a Samoan Sport” on Wednesday, April 26th at 6pm!


This webinar will be moderated by EXSS Professor Dr. Zachary Yukio Kerr and is part of our UNC Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM) events.


Registration: go.unc.edu/Polynesian



Lisa Uperesa is Senior Lecturer and Head of Department in Pacific Studies, and Co-Head of Te Wānanga o Waiapapa | School of Māori Studies and Pacific Studies at the University of Auckland.  She holds a PhD in anthropology and her research and teaching interests include transnational mobilities in the Pacific and beyond; sport, gender, and community; U.S. empire; and race, culture, and indigeneity.



Since the 1970s, a “Polynesian Pipeline” has brought football players from American Sāmoa to Hawai‘i and the continental United States to play at the collegiate and professional levels. In Gridiron Capital: How American Football Became a Samoan Game (Duke University Press, 2022) Lisa Uperesa charts the cultural, economic, social and political dynamics that have made football so significant to Samoan communities. For Samoan athletes, football is not just an opportunity for upward mobility; it is a way to contribute to, support, and represent their family, village, and nation. This talk offers insights into the structures that compel Pacific Islander youth toward athletic labor, social and physical costs of pursuing a football career, and the possibilities for safeguarding their health and wellbeing in the future.

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