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Ethnic Blindness in Ethnically Divided Society: Implications for Ethnic Relations in Fiji

  • Romitesh KantEmail author
Reference work entry
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Abstract

This chapter critically examines Fiji’s approach to ethnicity by adopting an “ethnically blind” approach to constitutional and political reform since the 2006 military coup. As a multiethnic and culturally diverse society, Fiji has witnessed political conflicts arising from this ethnic and cultural diversity. Since gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1970, Fiji politics have been marked by an alternating pattern of coups and constitutional reform. The country has instituted various constitutional arrangements with a view to meeting group claims to difference and equality. While the 1970 and 1997 Constitutions sought a form of multicultural compromise with the realities of Fiji’s demographic makeup, demands for continued ethno-political paramountcy by sections of the indigenous Fijian (iTaukei) population led to the overthrow of the democratically elected governments in 1987 and 2000. The 1990 Constitution institutionalized the privileged ethno-political status of indigenous Fijians. Following the 2006 military coup, Fiji embarked on a nation-building program designed, inter alia, to create unity by eliminating official categorization based on ethnicity. It is argued that national integration in the Fijian context has been an attempt to forge “unity in diversity,” seeking to wish away sociocultural differences and imposing uniformity in spite of complex cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity. This “ethnically blind” approach has the potential to create more conflict and pose obstacles to unity, peaceful coexistence, progress, and stable development. It recommends that national integration and its benefits can be realized only with the development and entrenchment of a supportive public culture, understanding, respecting, and tolerating differences occasioned by sociocultural diversity.

Keywords

Ethnic diversity Ethnic conflict Divided societies Ethnic-blindness Constitutional reform Fiji politics 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Human Security and Social Change (IHSSC), College of Arts and Social SciencesLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia

Section editors and affiliations

  • Steven Ratuva
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and SociologyUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific StudiesUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand

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