Accepted paper:

Tourism or terrorism: negotiating European desires and discourses of democracy in Fiji

Author:

Susanna Trnka (University of Auckland)

Paper short abstract:

In May 2000, Fiji experienced its third, violent political coup. This paper examines how Fijians’ concerns over the need to maintain Fiji’s image as a stable, 'Pacific paradise' to attract foreign tourists intersect with local discourses of democracy, human rights and indigeneity in debates over good government and citizen’s rights.

Paper long abstract:

In May 2000 Fiji experienced its third political coup which has resulted in continued political instability in the island nation. Fiji's present political structure is the result of British colonial rule which put in place a democratic political system, alongside colonial codifications of racial identity and a structure of communal voting. While their underlying motivations may be political and financial self-interest, Fiji's coup leaders have justified overthrowing various democratically elected leaders by questioning the value of 'democracy' and debating whether or not the principles of democratic government are a foreign imposition on this postcolonial nation. Sitiveni Rabuka, Fiji's first (and second) coup leader, for example, once famously stated that "democracy is a foreign flower" not fit to be tended in Fijian soil. And yet Fiji is also reliant on promoting itself as a political stable state in order to attract international investment, development aid, and tourism. During the political turmoil of 2000, many indigenous Fijians who otherwise supported the newest coup leader, George Speight, despaired over the impact of the latest coup on Fiji's international profile, particularly on foreign tourists who were frightened away by the latest round of political terror. This paper will examine how concerns over Fiji's tourist industry and the economic imperative of maintaining Fiji's image as a "Pacific paradise" to attract foreign, mainly "European" tourists (most of whom are in fact Australians and New Zealanders, but are referred to as "Europeans" in local terminology), intersect with discourses of democracy, human rights, and indigeneity in local debates over good government and citizen's rights.

panel W005
Islands of Doom, Islands of Bliss: revisiting maritime places of conquest and exploitation, pleasure and consumption