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Research

My research explores coups and ethnic conflict in Fiji from a (historical) anthropological perspective. It draws on my fieldwork amongst the multi-ethnic inhabitants of Suva, Fiji’s capital city, focusing on people’s memories of the 1987 and 2000 so-called ethnic coups from the ethnographic present denoted by my presence in Suva between 2002 and 2004. By bringing different ethnographic presents and different ethnic voices into dialogue with one another, I problematise the notion of coups as events that belong to the historical phenomenological archive, and as solely negative and rupturing. The voices of my informants illustrate instead that the coups of the past leak into the present, and are in some ways acted upon and within a future-oriented perspective. Further, coups can be exciting as well as disorientating, opening up new potentialities – for those people who look to settle or build futures outside their perceived homeland (e.g., Indo-FIjian emigration) as much as for the people who see coups as delivering their homeland back to them. The idea of potentiality exists too in examining coups along circulations of being and behaving at individual, inter-personal, inter-ethnic and national levels. By examining the variety of ways in which coups impact the people of Fiji phenomenologically, as well as how they are used to create spaces of resistance to the rhetoric of ethnic conflict, my research suggests that conflict resolution is more appropriately approached not after the event, as it were, or in a post-conflict landscape, but in the ways that people subvert conflict narratives in the midst of experiences like coups. My ethnography of coups in the apparently fragile multi-ethnic state of Fiji can therefore be extrapolated to other conflict societies, as well as orienting us towards a new anthropology of coups.

Media

Bainimarama and the Fiji public’s democratic mandate. The Conversation. 18th September 2014. http://theconversation.com/how-fijian-dictator-bainimarama-finally-earned-his-mandate-31856

Interviewed about Fiji’s 17th September elections. Monocle24. 17th September 2014. http://monocle.com/radio/shows/the-globalist/753 (from 18mins)

Conferences

“Culture, conflict and coups in Fiji: the politics and affect of ethnicity”. Anthropology in London Conference, University College London (London), 24th June 2014.

“Navigating the ethnic conflict paradigm: how to be a British Indian researcher in Fiji”. Royal Anthropological Institute Post-Graduate Conference, Brunel University (London), 3rd-4th September 2014.

“The fieldworker as internal other: reflections on being British Indian in Fiji after the 2000 coup”. Migrant Cross-Cultural Encounters Conference, University of Otago (New Zealand), 24th-26th November 2014 (forthcoming).

“TBC”. Austronesian Research Seminar, London School of Economics (London), December 2014 (forthcoming).

Publications

“How Fijian dictaror Bainimarama finally earned his mandate”. The Conversation. 18th September 2014. http://theconversation.com/how-fijian-dictator-bainimarama-finally-earned-his-mandate-31856

“Fiji: Bainimarama steps down, but military still waits in wings”. The Lowy Institute: The Interpreter. 7th March 2014. http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/author/Jas%20Kaur.aspx

Book reviews

Book Review of Listening on the Edge: Oral History in the Aftermath of Crisis edited by Mark Cave and Stephen M. Sloan. LSE Review of Books. http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/lsereviewofbooks/2014/09/02/book-review-listening-on-the-edge-oral-history-in-the-aftermath-of-crisis

Book Review of India: Political Ideas and the Making of a Democratic Discourse by Gurpreet Mahajan. LSE Review of Books. http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/lsereviewofbooks/2014/04/23/book-review-india-political-ideas-and-the-making-of-a-democratic-discourse

Editing

Editor of “Avtar: the not so terribly good Sikh of Great Britain” blog.https://theavtar.wordpress.com

Former roles and positions

Executive Co-Chair, Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism (ASEN) at the London School of Economics. http://www.lse.ac.uk/researchAndExpertise/units/ASEN/Home.aspx

Assistant Editor and Editorial Board Member, Nations & Nationalism. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/%28ISSN%291469-8129

Seminar Co-Chair, Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism (ASEN) at the London School of Economics. http://www.lse.ac.uk/researchAndExpertise/units/ASEN/Home.aspx

Research Assistant, Citizens’ Constitutional Forum, Fiji.

PR Consultant for blue-chip pharmaceutical clients, UK and worldwide.

3 thoughts on “Home

  1. Jas, you have an incomplete and erroneous view of Bainimarama’s real role in the 2000 coup.

    All the evidence suggests that he actively supported the coup at the beginning but changed his mind mid-way, hence the bloody mutiny against him, following which 5 CRW soldiers were taken from their homes and tortured to death without trial, judge of jury.

    You might want to read this part of my submission to the Yash Ghai Commission.

    https://narseyonfiji.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/wadan-narsey-final-submission-to-yash-ghai-commission-in-segments/g-who-is-responsible-for-the-coup-culture-and-how-eliminate-it/

    When Bainimarama actually transformed himself (if he genuinely has) is an interesting question with interesting answers, still to be clarified.

    Professor Wadan Narsey

    • Dear Professor Narsey,

      Thank you for your comment. My understanding, which I believe that I have stated, is that Bainimarama disagreed with the appointment of a non-Fijian Prime Minister. (And let’s take a moment here to recall that Chaudhry was indeed appointed.) He did not take as active a role as he might in bringing the coup – or putsch – to an end, given the hostage situation lasted some 56 days. Furthermore, he cemented the crisis by indeed staging what I consider to be the real coup of 2000, that do deposing the government through the assumption of military rule etc. Now, as to the question of whether Bainimarama has transformed himself, given his rhetoric in staging the 2006 coup and the many twists and turns that followed this, I freely admit that my research approach and analysis do not deal in categorisable truths. That is, I find it less fascinating to identify and hold something up as true; and more enriching – because perhaps I am an anthropologist – to understand the range of truths that are out there. There is the truth of torture; there is also the truth of the perceptions one creates, the senses that shape how people respond and why. For example, based on my historical ethnography, the 1987 coup created according to my informants both fear (Indo-Fijian) and excitement and disorientation (Fijian); yet, there were instances of Fijians breaking curfew to spend the evening with childhood Indian friends, of military Fijian men going to drink grog with their Indian acquaintances in order to be able to provide protection, even in the midst of feeling overwhelmed by the sense that the Indians were bent on colonising Fiji. The ethnographic picture I have of the 2000 coup is equally fraught with a messiness that we don’t often read about in relation to coups, whether in Fiji or elsewhere in the world. I mean of course a complexity beyond the usual ethnicity and class paradigms. The rise of the military is another aspect of the coups, and is bundled up with self-aggrandising personalities to be sure. I guess, my interest is in getting at complexities rather than black or white truths. That is what animates my PhD research and analysis for sure. This in no way detracts from the intensity of what people experience, and the violence and suffering that has been documented in relation to individuals in power. But I am committed to completing a cycle of doctoral research that I first began more than a decade ago; hence, it may fall outside some other prescient concerns and feelings and frames of research and thinking. I hope to widen the scope of my research in some capacity after my present research is completed, perhaps in a post-doctoral capacity.

  2. I speak as a Fijian..a land owner..with close ties to the village..to the Vanua.

    Our Coups were never nor will ever be any good.

    The iTaukei grows up wondering why there are so many foreigners in their Mother-land.
    They soon learn that most of these other people with differing language and cultures are also Fijian.

    It is confusing, irritating, and many a times angering to know that they have no say in the sharing of their name and country for the actions of the colonizer’s those many years past have sealed their fate.

    With education, religion, and time, the iTaukei realizes that Fiji, their Fiji originally must be shared.

    Intercultural experiences slowly teach that all these communities can live together and share, and as time goes by the once alien and resented neighbor becomes a friend and fellow countrymen.

    This important transition cannot be forced however it should be nurtured through education, goodwill, and the natural gelling that time brings.

    In a hundred years time our children would have almost forgotten our once distinct differences and Fiji would’ve become genuinely multicultural in action and more so in heart.

    I hope.

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