Robert Norton’s Race and Politics in Fiji, first published in 1977, drew upon the author’s fieldwork in Fiji to develop the first serious and sustained study of politics in Fiji.
An exercise in political anthropology, it was republished by UQP in 1990, but the essential argument remained much the same: the author sought to understand how political accommodation was achieved in Fiji despite deep ethnic and social cleavages. Why was Fiji able to escape the ethnic violence and turbulence that characterised other ethnically divided societies, such as Guyana? The answer lay in avoiding open competition for power at the ballot box. Instead, the principal political actors accepted the realities of the existing social and ethnic cleavages and sought to work with them. As Norton observes, ‘The recognition of racial division as a necessary framework for cooperation has become the major principle of social and political integration in Fiji’.
Norton’s study of politics in Fiji is a critical piece of scholarship on late colonial Fiji.