Document Type

Book Chapter


In this chapter I place a specific maritime transport culture at the center of colonial histories of space, mobility, and intimacy in Fiji. A port of call along the routes of various steamship companies, Suva became the regional center of the western Pacific in the late nineteenth century. Steamships facilitated the regular and routine passage of people and goods through this site, while companies' labor demands brought men from diverse racial groups into new forms of contact, exchange, and conflict. To date, scholars have not discussed the maritime dimensions of the late nineteenth century colonial Pacific in any great depth. Epeli Hau'ofa's provocative and influential conceptualization of Oceania as "Our Sea of Islands" counters the marginalization of islands in this ocean as small, dependent, and isolated. He emphasizes long-standing processes of maritime connectivity throughout the Pacific, charting continuity between ancient navigational practices and present-day mobilities. This continuity, he asserts, was fractured by a middle period of colonial rule when Europeans turned their backs on the sea, partitioned islands, and confined indigenous populations to them.