Making Majorities: Constituting the Nation in Japan, Korea, China, Malaysia, Fiji, Turkey, and the United States

By Dru C. Gladney | Go to book overview

9
Aspiring to Minority and Other Tactics Against Violence

JOHN D. KELLY

THE center has not held, but things have not fallen apart in Fiji. The British Commonwealth vision -- the vision of an alliance of geographically dispersed, culturally backward pockets all striving to become like the British, once aided by British colonial investment and inspiration, now partners in a network of economic mutual aid (a common wealth) -- was rejected in Fiji by two military coups in 1987. The constitution written in London was abandoned, the Commonwealth ruptured, a republic declared. The Commonwealth ideal was rejected in Fiji by the closest allies the British had thought that they had there, the chiefs and the indigenous Fijian military elite. In place of the Commonwealth vision of benign Westernization, the indigenous elite has promoted a goal that the British themselves had often used tactically to rule in Fiji: perpetual firstness, vaguely defined, for the indigenous Fijians and therefore especially for their guardians. Denied any right to equal priority, yet again, is the other half of Fiji's population, the descendants of South Asians, descendants largely of the people brought to labor on British plantations: the descendants of the people the British once called "coolies."

Guardians for indigenous Fijians (or "ethnic Fijians"), self-appointed and otherwise, have always had their roles in Fiji's politics because metaphors of childhood and adolescence have been used quite freely, especially by British policymakers, to describe indigenous Fijians. (The descendants of the plantation labor, the "Fiji Indians" or "Indo-Fijians," on the other hand, were never again seen as childlike in the British Empire after the 1857 "mutiny" in India; in Fiji their difference has always been typed by others

-173-

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