Disturbing history: aspects of resistance in early colonial Fiji, 1874 - 1914.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The overarching aim of this study is to trace evidence of resistant behaviour among subordinate groups in the first forty years of Fiji's colonial history (1874-1914). By rereading archival materials "against the grain", listening to oral history, and engaging postcolonial scholarship, the study intends to disturb accepted ways of understanding Fiji's past. This approach reveals the existence of numerous people, voices, and events which until recently have remained largely on the margins of Fiji's process of historical production. As a chronological survey, the study produces a body of evidence which uncovers a rich array of forms of resistance. The points at which these forms of resistance engaged dominant culture are divided into two broad categories. The first examines several forms of organized resistance such as the Colo War of 1876, the Tuka Movement of 1878 to 1891, the Seaqaqa War of 1894, the Movement for Federation with New Zealand from 1901 to 1903, the Viti Kabani Movement of 1913 to 1917, and the various instances of organised labour protest on Fiji's plantations. The second addresses everyday forms of resistance in the villages and plantations such as tax and land boycotts, violence and retributive justice, avoidance protest, petitioning, and various aspects of women's resistance. In their entirety these aspects of resistance reveal a complex web of relationships between powerful and subordinate groups, and among subordinate groups themselves. These conclusions preclude framing resistance as a totality and advocate instead a conceptualization of resistance as a multi-layered and multi-dimensional reality. In contributing to the reconstruction and revision of Fiji's early colonial history, the study seeks to both clarify and complicate future research in the area.