Centre for Diasporic Studies (CDS)
The Centre for Diaspora Studies (CDS) is one of the five centres established at The University of Fiji to instill in individuals the recognition and appreciation of the movement of people and how this transition has affected their lives and their livelihood. The CDS is one of the foremost global centres of excellence on the history of emigration and of immigration, subjects of great current political, social, economic and cultural interest both within and beyond the academy. While Fiji will always remain a core area of interest, increasing attention is now and in the future being given to comparative studies, generic Diaspora themes and the migration histories of other ethnicities.
Centre for Diaspora Studies Diaspora is designed to bring together both social science and humanities at perspectives and to contribute to an amplified discussion and research collaboration among learners who are passionate about the shifting relations between homeland and host nations. The University of Fiji has established a Centre for Diaspora Studies in response to generate a new sense of enthusiasm and expectation as well as understanding Fiji’s role in accommodating Diaspora here at home. Rather, the Fijian example is a means towards understanding the nature of Diaspora and transnationalism elsewhere in USA, Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the Global South.
The Centre is concerned with better understanding of Fiji’s Diaspora, and the promotion of the contribution of Fiji’s Diaspora to Fiji’s development. This would go a long way in aiding to fabricate a better and fruitful relationship between Fiji and its Diasporas spread all over the world.
The Centre seeks to address the following issues in the study and appreciation of Fiji’s Diaspora:
- The process of emigration, settlement and identity formation in host societies.
- Ethnicity of Fiji-Indian Diaspora communities in relation to the changing power structures, under which ethnic identity is an integrating or discordant force.
- Form transnational networks and linkages between homeland, host nations and Diaspora communities.
- Comparative studies of creative writings on the Fiji-Indian Diaspora by the Fiji-Indian writers, and non-Indian writers.
- Research into the new cultural forms of Fijis’ Diaspora, including popular culture.
- Micro-level ethnographic studies on the Fiji- Indian Diaspora.
- Contributions of Diasporas to the scientific, technological, administrative and industrial development in host societies.
Appreciation and recognition of an exigent, yet humble Roots and Routes of a Diaspora.
The Centre envisage dialogue, discussion and research on the historical context of Fiji’s Diaspora, a critical appreciation of Indian Diaspora in Fiji, civilization heritage of Diaspora communities, continuities and transformation in culture, economy and political life, and promoting communication and relationships between homeland and the Fijian Diaspora community.
Through its various programs and activities CDS intends to:
- Create an awareness about the challenges and biases of Diaspora
- Promote dialogue among academicians, policy makers, industry and civil society on various emerging issues relating to Diaspora.
- Organize activities the society may identify as relevant and related to Diaspora.
- Recognize and appreciate the challenges faced by Diaspora
- Enable students to attain a sound knowledge of the transnational nature of the modern world.
- Facilitate students to develop an anthropological perspective and related skills in dealing with issues in the Diaspora.
- Enable students to develop an interdisciplinary approach to topics concerning migration, political status and religious identity.
- Use the multimedia approach to the study to develop various communication skills with the view of presenting topics to a cosmopolitan audience.
Fiji has around 18,270 sq km. It has a total population of 905,949 out of which 65 percent are in the working age group and 35 percent are dependent population 2 out of which, around 31 percent are in the age group of 0-14. The median age is 24.6 years. The population growth is estimated to be 1.45 percent in 2006. The net migration rate is 2.94 migrants per thousand in the year 2006, which proves that the in-migration is higher than the out-migration. The ethnic composition of Fiji consists of: Fijian (51 percent) (predominantly Melanesian with a Polynesian admixture), Indian (44 percent), and the rest 5 percent constitutes of Europeans, other Pacific Islanders and overseas Chinese (2008 estimation).
Fiji gained sovereignty in 1970, after almost a century as a British colony. Democratic rule was interrupted by two military coups in 1987, caused by concern over a government perceived as dominated by the Indian community (descendants of contract laborers brought to the islands by the British in the 19th century). The Military coups and a 1990 constitution that cemented native Melanesian control of Fiji, led to heavy Indian emigration; the population loss resulted in economic difficulties, but ensured that Melanesians became the majority. A new constitution enacted in 1997 was more equitable. Free and peaceful elections in1999 resulted in a government led by an Indo-Fijian, but a civilian-led coup in May 2000 ushered in a prolonged period of political turmoil. Parliamentary elections held in August 2001 provided Fiji with a democratically elected government led by Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase which was later overthrown by Military charge. From 2006 till 2014, the country is governed by military rule and in September, 2014, Fiji should return to democratic rule after elections.
Today, Diaspora plays an imperative role and effectively contributes in development, both, in their host countries as well as back home. For example, in Politics, Fiji’s diverse Diaspora play a positive role in enhancing bilateral relations with the countries of their residence.
The Indian Diaspora is so widespread that the sun never sets on it, because it spans across the globe and stretches across all the oceans and continents. There are Indians spread over forty-eight countries. In eleven countries there are more than half a million persons of Indian descent and they represent a significant proportion of the population of these countries.
With a population of around twenty million, spread across a hundred and ten countries they are serving their host nations with distinction as entrepreneurs, workers, teachers, researchers, innovators, doctors, lawyers, engineers, managers and even political leaders. Every overseas Indian is an achiever in his own way and as he succeeds, India succeeds with him. What gives a common identity to all members of Indian Diaspora is their Indian origin, their consciousness of their cultural heritage and their deep attachment to India.
Throughout its history, Fiji has received migrants from various parts of the world, in particular India and has comfortably absorbed them instinctively with their culture, language, economic and social status. This has equipped Fiji to easily interact with cultures and ethnicities abroad. Indians have carried this very rich legacy of adaptability with them to their host countries. This very unique feature of Indian Diaspora is the most important factor in the success of the evolution of the Indian Diaspora across a hundred and ten countries of the globe.
India’s links with Fiji Islands commenced in 1879 when Indian laborers were brought here under indentured system to work on sugarcane plantations. The first ship load of 498 laborers arrived in Fiji on May 14, 1879. Between 1879 and 1916 (when this system was abolished) around 60,000 Indians were brought to Fiji. In popular parlance, indenture was known as ‘Girmit’ – a distortion of agreement and those taken under it the ‘Girmityas’. Their descendents now form the second largest ethnic group in Fiji. Despite maintaining minimal contacts with India, ethnic Indians here have retained their religion, culture, tradition and language. They speak Fiji Hindi (a mixture of Awadhi and Bhojpuri). They are also great fans of Bollywood.
Hindustani is recognized as one of the three official languages (besides English and Fijian) as per 1997 Constitution. Hindi is also taught in schools and colleges and Hindi radio stations broadcast Hindi programmes. Owing to 1987 and 2000 coups, over one hundred thousand Fijians of Indian origin have emigrated from Fiji between 1987 and April 2004, mainly to Australia, New Zealand, US and Canada. This included many doctors, engineers, professionals, skilled personnel, senior officials’ and businessmen. May 2004 celebrated the 125th anniversary of the arrival of Indians in Fiji. Fiji has a small but growing Indian expatriate (around 400) population.
The presence of Indian Diaspora has also created a linkage between domestic political developments in India’s external relations with countries of their settlement. In areas of Economic Development, Commerce and Trade, Diaspora can help increase bilateral trade and commercial relationship with their host countries.
Education, Tourism and Culture are the other areas for widening linkages with the Indian Diaspora abroad. The spread and presence of the Diaspora population all over the globe is a matter of great pride for homeland. This network gives an opportunity to have relations in the field of culture, education, civilization and other areas. Since India achieved independence, overseas Diasporas have been returning to seek their roots and explore new avenues and sectors for mutually beneficial relationship from investment to transfer of skills and technology, to outright philanthropy and charitable works. This trend has become more marked during the last decade as the Indian economy has opened up, giving rise to a new range of opportunities for emerging generations. It is thus, a two-way role in which both the Diaspora and the Government are mutual beneficiaries.
Subcategories of Indian Diaspora in Fiji
- Indian Indenture labourers
- Indo-Fijian People
- Sikhs in Fiji
- Indian expatriates in Fiji
- Arya Samaj
- South Inidans in Fiji
- Muslims in Fiji
- Lascars in Fiji
The Centre intends to host annual lectures by scholars/public figures of international renown who speaks on issues of current interest in the field of migration and diaspora. In addition, seminars will be held. Invited speakers include academics, policy makers, and those involved in the arts and media. The Centre also intends to host workshops, conferences, and films, which aim to challenge current orthodoxy and expand our understanding of a world no longer defined predominantly by the borders of nation-states. Most events will be open to the public.
1. A Post Graduate Diploma in Diaspora Studies
The Centre intends to offer a Post Graduate level program in diaspora Studies.
a. Introduction to Diaspora Studies
This course is an interdisciplinary introduction to the study of diaspora, with particular attention to questions of history, globalization, cultural production and the creative imagination. Material will be drawn from Fiji as well as from diasporic communities in other times and places.
b. Research Design for Diaspora and Transnational Studies
This course focuses on research design and training in interdisciplinary methods from history, geography, anthropology, literary and cultural studies, and other disciplines appropriate to Diaspora and Transnational Studies. This course prepares students to undertake primary research required in senior seminars.
c. Coups, Diasporas, and Identity Crises
Military conflict makes civilians vulnerable and affects them socially and emotionally. Physical hardships, emotional and psychological traumas, diseases and premature deaths accompany any war. The course focuses on the impact of the war onto national, religious and ethnic identities, with a special focus on minority groups and their Diasporas.
d. Diasporas as the nomads of the 21st Century
This is an interesting Course that distills the essence of migration of the Indo-Fijians from India and their settlement in Fiji. Then it reviews the displacement of the people due to land lease expiry and its impact and many manifestations leading to resettlements and designation of new identities in Fiji.
2. Visiting Scholars
Every year, the Centre will intend to act as hosts to Visiting Scholars of Migration and Diaspora Studies. Visiting scholars will be invited to participate in the Centre’s seminar series, as well as other events sponsored by the Centre, and be encouraged to be an active member of the migration and diaspora research community at CDS.
3. Organize internal Essay Competitions
4. Organize external Fiji Primary/Secondary level Essay/story (telling through art and dance) competitions
5. Organize Seminars and Conferences
6. Arrange cultural songs and dances arts and music
In contemporary thought Diaspora involves an understanding of the shifting relations between homelands and host nations from the perspective of those who have moved, whether voluntarily or not. Diaspora emphasizes the inexorable lived experience of many migrant communities of negotiating forms of existence and self-understanding that are often transnational and exceed the boundaries of the nation-state. Questions of nostalgia, of the dynamics of co-ethnic identification, of the politics of homeland and host nation, and of the inter-generational shifts in responses to all these are central to studies of Diaspora.
The concepts of Diaspora indisputably promise a broad understanding of the full spectrum of implications that derive from the reality of the vast movements of populations, goods, ideas, images, technologies, and finance in the world today.
The academic undertaking of the Centre for Diaspora is to establish a hub of excellence that will enhance graduate life at the University of Fiji by speaking directly to students’ experiences of migration and Diaspora through an interdisciplinary lens, drawn from both the social sciences and humanities. The work of the Centre is comparative, qualitative and historically driven as well as providing policy insights on pertinent issues in the world today. Through its activities it aims to become the focus for innovative and important graduate and faculty research within the university and across the world. The Centre adds important dimensions to the university’s national and international reputation, at the same time connecting with people from different ethnicities, religions, colour and creed.
Centre for Diaspora Studies