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Law & Empire in the Pacific

Fiji and Hawai`i

Edited by Sally Engle Merry and Donald Brenneis

Publication Year: 2004

Hawai'i and Fiji share strikingly similar histories of colonialism and plantation sugar production but display different legacies of ethnic conflict today. Pacific Island chiefdoms colonized by the United States and England respectively, the islands' indigenous populations were forced to share resources with a small colonizing elite and growing numbers of workers imported from South Asia. Both societies had long traditions of chiefly power exercised through reciprocity and descent; both were integrated into the plantation complex in the nineteenth century. Colonial authorities, however, constructed vastly different legal relationships with the indigenous peoples in each setting, and policy toward imported workers also differed in arrangements around land tenure and political participation. The legacies of these colonial arrangements are at the roots of the current crisis in both places. Focusing on the intimate relationship between law, culture, and the production of social knowledge, these essays re-center law in social theory. The authors analyze the transition from chiefdom to capitalism, colonizers' racial and governmental ideologies, land and labor policies, and contemporary efforts to recuperate indigenous culture and assert or maintain indigenous sovereignty. Speaking to Fijian and Hawaiian circumstances, this volume illuminates the role of legal and archival practice in constructing ethnic and political identities and producing colonial and anthropological knowledge.

Published by: SAR Press


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pp. 1-5

Title page

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pp. 6-6


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pp. 7-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-11


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pp. xi-15

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1 Introduction

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pp. 3-34

Fiji and Hawai‘i, two chains of high volcanic islands at one time controlled by powerful chiefs, lie a few thousand miles apart in the Pacific Ocean. Colonized in the late nineteenth century, both developed a thriving sugar plantation economy based on imported Asian laborers. In each case, colonial officials formed a coalition with the...

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2 A Chief Does Not Rule Land; He Rules People (Luganda Proverb)

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pp. 35-60

In this chapter, I briefly develop ideal-typic models of two political-economic systems—chiefdoms and liberal capitalism—to suggest commonalties in how the people of Hawai‘i and Fiji experienced the role of law in transforming chiefs’ rule over people into rule over land.1 Ideal-typic models are necessarily abstract: “It is probably seldom if ever that...

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3 Gordon Was No Amateur Imperial Legal Strategies in the Colonization of Fiji

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pp. 61-100

In Fiji, colonial inheritances have been nurtured into sad new flowers possible only in the soils of postcolonial predicament. Voting rights are “racially” demarcated and unevenly distributed. Almost all land is reserved as the inalienable property of legally demarcated clans of one ethnic group, the ethnic Fijians. Ethnic Fijians also monopolize the military. ...

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4 Talking Back to Law and Empire Hula in Hawaiian-Language Literature in 1861

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pp. 101-121

This chapter is about the first publication of the mo‘olelo of the goddesses of hula. A mo‘olelo is a story, history, literature, or any kind of narrative. Because I am about to share details of a mo‘olelo that few people in the world have the ability to read, I must begin by stating my relationship to this mo‘olelo and to the knowledge of the native people of Hawai‘i. ...

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5 Law and Identity in an American Colony

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pp. 123-152

Law is a crucial element in the constitution of ethnic identities, creating affinities and oppositions, inclusion and exclusion. Comparing Hawai‘i to Fiji demonstrates dramatically how legal arrangements constitute ethnic relationships and conflicts. The designation of citizenship and of rights to land differed significantly in the two places, leaving legacies of ethnic tension ...

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6 Promised Lands From Colonial Lawgiving to Postcolonial Takeovers in Fiji

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pp. 153-186

A major question for contemporary postcolonial societies is under-standing how legally defined identities have shaped contemporary social groups. In Latourian fashion, I would like to generalize this question to ask as well about entities and events: How have legally defined entities in Fiji’s colonial history shaped contemporary events? We will...

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7 Law as Object

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pp. 187-212

From its inception at the hands of Fiji’s retreating colonial government, Fiji’s postcolonial era has been an era of groups. The first independence constitution gives political valence to a notion of racial groups by dividing voters into Fijians, Indians, and “General Voters,” paving the way for both group-based politics and alliances across groups (Lal 1986). ...

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8 Ku‘e and Ku‘oko‘a History, Law, and Other Faiths

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pp. 213-237

On February 23, 2000, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision that has had a significant effect on Native Hawaiians and their seventeen-year-old movement to reclaim self-government. Chief Justice Kennedy articulated the opinion of the Court finding that Hawai‘i’s denial of petitioner Harold Rice’s right to vote in the trustee elections for the Office of Hawaiian ...

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9 Delegating Closure

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pp. 239-259

Bernard Cohn and others have drawn attention to the effects of colonial documentation projects such as the collecting of census data (Cohn 1987), the codification of customary law (Moore 1992), the registration of native land titles (France 1969; Rappaport 1994), the surveillance of religious movements (Kaplan 1995), and the recording of ethnological information more generally (Dirks 2001; Thomas 1992). ....

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10 Heartbreak Islands Reflections on Fiji in Transition

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pp. 261-280

Fiji is a paradox and a pity.1 A paradox because this island nation is endowed with wonderful natural resources, a talented and multiethnic population with a high literacy rate, and a sophisticated (but now crumbling) public infrastructure where drinkable piped water was once guaranteed, public roads had few potholes, poverty and crime and squatters were visible but contained, hospitals were uncrowded, children went cheerfully ...


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pp. 281-303


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pp. 305-313

Other Titles in the Series

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pp. 328-330


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pp. 331-331

Back cover

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pp. 332-332

E-ISBN-13: 9781938645266
E-ISBN-10: 193864526X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781930618251
Print-ISBN-10: 1930618255

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 2 b/w illustrations
Publication Year: 2004

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 645175232
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Law & Empire in the Pacific

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Chiefdoms -- Hawaii -- History -- Congresses.
  • Chiefdoms -- Fiji -- History -- Congresses.
  • Hawaiians -- Government relations -- Congresses.
  • Fijians -- Government relations -- Congresses.
  • Hawaiians -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- Congresses.
  • Fijians -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- Congresses.
  • Law -- Hawaii -- History -- Congresses.
  • Law -- Fiji -- History -- Congresses.
  • Hawaii -- Colonial influence -- Congresses.
  • Fiji -- Colonial influence -- Congresses.
  • Hawaii -- Race relations -- Congresses.
  • Fiji -- Race relations -- Congresses.
  • Great Britain -- Colonies -- Oceania -- Congresses.
  • United States -- Territories and possessions -- Congresses.
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