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Manti Te’o & Samoan Hoaxes

Author and Indiana University communication and culture assistant professor Ilana Gershon wrote a fascinating essay looking at the Manti Te’o hoax through her fieldwork with Samoan migrants.

Gershon wrote The Break-Up 2.0: Disconnecting over New Media, and spent many hours studying stories passed between Samoan migrants. She found some fascinating roots to the hoax about the football player’s imaginary girlfriend. Check it out:

Reading Jeremy Schaap’s interview with Manti Te’o on ESPN, what strikes me as particularly Samoan about this story? Manti Te’o opens with a very familiar Samoan worry – it is not his own shame he is concerned about, he is worried about the shame this will bring to his whole family, all those who share his last name … So much of this news story is hauntingly familiar to me from fieldwork with Samoan migrants: the role of family, the half-hearted attempts to verify a person’s identity that fail, the strong spiritual connection Te’o thought he felt with Kekua, and the hoax itself.

What do you think? Tomorrow Katie Couric will host Te’o’s first television interview. We’ve embedded the introduction video above. (Via Hari Kunzru) Manti Te’o & Samoan Hoaxes

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