Project Year






Project Description

Over the last five decades, the exchange of private remittances from the overseas Tongan community have been critical to Tonga’s local income and consumption. However, as Governor of Tonga’s Reserve Bank Hon. Siosi C. Mafi explains, since the 2007 global financial crisis, private remittances from the Tongan diaspora have declined, reinforcing the notion that remittances are not a sustainable form of investment. The Tongan government needs to consider alternatives to generate local income and consumption. This research project defines ‘transformative value’ as the potential to abandon uncontrollable financial situations for more manageable alternatives. In seeking to understand the transformative value of kau tou lalanga— a collective weaving enterprise in Tonga—the research asks: How does kau tou lalanga enhance Tongan weavers’ ability to financially support themselves and dependents through weaver’s wages and business profits? Furthermore, how do mobile phones, money transfer mediums, and microfinance contribute to the transformative value of kau tou lalanga? Ethnographic fieldwork will be conducted in two remote villages in Tonga. This will entail the accumulation of an assortment of surveys of weaving collectives from each village. Using observational anthropological methods to document participant and site observations, the research records the progress of each kau tou lalanga and the usage of exchange mediums, mobile phones, and associated events. Archival research at Tongan financial institutions coupled with literature analysis will continue to inform the ethnography as well.


Charmaine ‘Ilaiu Talei

About the Researcher(s)

TaleiCharmaine ‘Ilaiu Talei is working on her Ph.D. in Architecture at the Aboriginal Environment Research Centre, School of Architecture, University of Queensland. Her research contributes to the understanding of historical and contemporary Pacific architectures and material cultures in island and urban Pacific Rim contexts. She holds a Master's of Architecture - Research (Honours), Bachelor's of Architecture (First Class Honours), and a Bachelor's of Architectural Studies from the University of Auckland.





Synopsis of Research Results

1. Link to Charmaine 'Ilaiu Talei's final report: Understanding the transformative value of Tongan women’s kau tou lalanga: mobile mats, mobile phones, and money transfer agents. 

2. Link to the project blog post.


© UC Irvine School of Social Sciences - 3151 Social Sciences Plaza, Irvine, CA 92697-5100 - 949.824.2766