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‘They Cannot Represent Themselves’: Threats to Difference and So-Called Community Politics in Fiji from 1936 to 1947

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Abstract

In the twilight of empire, through the course of a world war and in the midst of rapid industrial and social restructuring, in the Fiji Islands between 1936 and 1947, some crucial decisions were made. They were made by British imperial officials, Australian capitalists, Fiji sugar cane growers, indigenous Fijian chiefs and commoners, and Fiji Indians of many religions, occupations and aspirations. Initiatives were taken that renewed race and racial difference as Fiji’s single most salient principle of political order. This essay in historical ethnography will focus on obscure episodes in a chain of dramatic and extraordinarily complex events, episodes often passed over or briefly noted even in detailed histories of Fiji, in an effort to highlight moments of specific political will in action, their connections and their consequences. Why did the corporation that dominated Fiji’s economy, its monopsony sugar miller, the Australia-based Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR), choose to lobby London to keep the price it was paid for sugar low throughout the war years? Why did Fiji’s Central Indian War Committee vote, in 1942, to disband rather than coordinate Fiji Indian service to the imperial war effort? And why did Ratu Sukuna, preeminent ethnic Fijian leader, seek and then repudiate an agreement to accept the 1943 sugar crop as a gift to Fiji from the sugar growers?

Keywords

Community Politics Sugar Industry Indian Community Colonial History Pearl Harbor 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

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