Masculinity in the marketplace : geographies of post-colonial gender work in modern Fiji
Although many Fijians often construct ideal notions of social life and organisation outside the market economy and often explicitly argue that Fijian tradition was incompatible with the capitalist economy, modernity has brought an increasing amount of Fijians into direct and more frequent contact with the marketplace. However, throughout this development the native Fijians remained in a cultural sphere largely independent and separate from these modern dynamics until quite recently, ‘insulated by colonial policy from the workings of the capitalist market’ (Kelly 1992: 98). In fact, even in contemporary Fiji, the relationship between Fijians and the dynamics of the modern economy has remained ambiguous and conflictual, based on an ideology which draws a distinct dividing line between Fijian traditional practices and ‘the way of money’. By focusing my discussion on these two spheres as ‘domains of difference’ (Bhabha 1994: 2), I argue that the modern marketplace is a site for complex, ongoing negotiations between conflicting discourses about masculinity which frame indigenous Fijian men’s gender identification in post-colonial Fiji. Based on observations and field studies I discuss findings pointing to the continuous complex relationship between notions of Fijian tradition and the dynamics of the market economy and how Fijian men attempted to negotiate these two concepts to perform valorised masculine performances in a changing, social context. In fact, men’s complicated relationship to waged work and money appears to be at the core of many men’s struggle to position themselves as dominant men within the changing Fijian social sphere, highlighting the interplay between notions of tradition, modernity and masculinity. A key argument of this chapter is that colonial and post-colonial policies have discursively created the modern marketplace and village Fiji as two diametrically opposite domains of difference. Urban, commercial space and exogenous, Western culture are conflated concepts in this discourse, where modernity is constructed in direct contrast to traditional Fiji. The Fijian post-colonial condition, then, is at once temporal and spatial, in the sense that modernity is explained based on these two interrelated metaphors. Drawing upon postcolonial theories, I propose the argument that it is in these in-between spaces, the third spaces ‘where the negotiation of incommensurable differences create a tension peculiar to borderline existences’ (Bhabha 1994: 312), that notions of masculine and ethno-cultural identities are articulated and performed. Postcolonial theorists have, despite their pre-supposition with identities, cultural transformations and nationalism, often focussed their attention on texts rather than social practice. There is, however, much in postcolonial theory that can aid us in thinking ‘beyond narratives of originary and initial subjectivities’, such as gender, race or ethnicity, and challenge officialised histories by focusing on ‘moments and processes that are produced in the articulation of cultural differences’ (Bhabha 1994: 2). These frameworks, I suggest, are particularly useful in understanding the formations of gendered and ethno-cultural self-identities in particular contexts. Maintaining that masculinity is a social performance, attained through a complex process of socialisation which comprises historical, geographical, social, economic, political and ethno-cultural factors, I consequently set up my discussion with a brief analysis of the emergence of the capitalist economy in Fiji and its impact on discourses about gender and masculinity. This chapter thus draws upon the principles of historical anthropology, which seeks to combine a trans-historical analysis with thick, ethnographic description. The ethnographic data utilised here was collected by means of participant observation and informal interviews in urban settlements and villages in the western parts of Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu, in 2009 and 2010.