Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
Issue 37, March 2015

What Makes Fiji Women Soldiers?
Context, Context, Context

Teresia Teaiwa

  1. What makes women soldiers? What might make a woman enter and seek a career in such an entrenched domain of men and masculinity as the military? What do women have to do to earn the status of 'soldier,' or gain recognition as a member of a nation's armed forces? Any scholarly attempt to answer such questions must account for specificities of nationality, culture, and history. Feminist scholarship from the 1980s and 1990s reminds us that 'woman' cannot be assumed to be a universal category, and that race, class, sexuality and religion among other factors can create hierarchies of inclusion and exclusion that normalise some females' conditions and issues, and marginalise others'.[1] Moreover, while military institutions across the world may share much in common in terms of organisational structure, language, ideology, protocols, material culture and technology, it is fairly widely accepted that each individual military can also be seen to retain and demonstrate distinct national characteristics; and at a more provincial level, some regiments within a national armed force may even cultivate and proudly display more local and vernacular traits.[2] So if we accept that 'woman' and 'military' are categories that may vary according to time and place, when trying to understand what makes women soldiers, quite simply, context matters.
  2. My anchoring context for posing the question, 'What makes women soldiers?' is that of the Pacific Islands nation of Fiji. Any number of case studies from around the world could illuminate the modern phenomenon of women soldiers, but focusing on Fiji helps to shed light on the militarisation of a region of the world that is still commonly represented in popular media as idyllic. Fiji's experience both as a British colony (from 1874) and as an independent sovereign self-governing nation (since 1970) additionally helps to illustrate the multiplicity of historical and political contexts that can engender militarisation in the Pacific Islands. While there are certainly other Pacific Island territories where women continue to serve in colonial military forces (e.g. Guam, American Samoa), are serving in their own national defence forces (e.g. Papua New Guinea, Tonga), or are being recruited by former colonial states into armed service (e.g. Marshall Islands, FSM, Belau), Fiji is the only Pacific nation where all three contexts can be observed in historical sequence.
  3. My larger project seeks to enable robust critiques of imperialism and anti-militarism in the Pacific without sacrificing an acknowledgment and understanding of the complex and diverse range of indigenous agency that articulates with processes of imperialism, colonialism and militarisation. As I have written elsewhere, I am convinced that the demilitarisation of Pacific societies cannot be achieved by oversimplifying or caricaturing the problem of militarisation.[3] In previous work I argued that cultures of militarism exceed and in fact can be co-constructed by an ostensibly civilian society.[4] That theory continues to be substantiated by my current research on Fiji women soldiers, for in many ways, I have found that what makes them such 'good' soldiers is not so much the military, but Fiji. The challenge of demilitarising Fiji effectively would then rely on apprehending the conditions under which militarised and militarising values in society have been articulated, rearticulated and disarticulated over time.
  4. In the larger project, I suggest that Fiji's changing historical contexts have contributed to an initially slow-paced but inevitable transformation of the cultural category of 'woman' into one that can be productively militarised according to a particular socio-economic logic. As Theresa Suarez has phrased it in her research with daughters of Filipino military servicemen in San Diego, it is possible to be both 'feminised and militarised,' (see Suarez, this volume). While feminist scholars have long identified the ways that the feminine and sexualised roles of military wives and sex workers have been coopted by military organisations,[5] my research has found that counterintuitive though it may seem, there is a significant congruence—at least in modern history—of soldiering and femininity in Fiji.
  5. This article, however, is more broadly focused on three critical historical junctures of Fiji's militarisation: late colonial, nationalist and what James Clifford has called a post-/neo-colonial context.[6] It is necessary to highlight these three historical eras in order to understand the ways in which varying conditions of political sovereignty might have shaped the exercise of agency by individuals and groups of women in Fiji over time. Because space does not allow for a more thorough consideration of women soldiers' agency in this essay, what I am trying to argue is that militarisation in the Fiji context has not been a solely colonial project, but has also been part of an indigenous nationalist turn and is now in a post-/neo-colonial phase of development, in which militarised labour migration is blurring the lines between citizenship and military service. The reflections shared here are based on a combination of archival and secondary research, and interviews with current and former military personnel.
  6. My discussion begins by noting the historiographical lacuna or silence around Fiji women soldiers. This is followed by a brief summation of the circumstances leading to the recruitment of Fiji women into armed service in each period, followed by a discussion and elaboration of how paying attention to key contextual events in each period can help shed light on the extent to which women's individual agency might be enabled or constrained by the broader structural conditions of the time. In particular I highlight how the recruitment of women into armed forces in the colonial and nationalist periods appeared to offer progressive social alternatives for women's development, while the post-/neo-colonial period has seen a fading of a nationalist agenda, and the decreasing significance of gender, in the face of overriding economic rationales for militarisation. The conclusion reiterates the importance of paying attention to the changing contexts of militarisation over time in Fiji, especially for understanding the phenomenon of women soldiers.
  7. In a story published on its front page on Saturday 2 April 1988, the Fiji Times newspaper reported that forty-one women had participated in the Fiji Military Forces (FMF) passing out (graduation) parade a few days previous, on Wednesday 29 March. The front page photograph focused on a row of thirteen women marching, eyes right, wearing camouflage uniforms, berets and cap badges, with their rifles on their left shoulders.[7] The brief story accompanying the photograph noted that of the forty-five women who had initially joined up, only forty-one were among the 151 total recruits passing out on the day; the women would be commissioned as Second Lieutenants and were expected to train future women recruits. The newspaper did not make any special mention of the fact that these were the first women ever to serve in the FMF, and when I interviewed women from this very cohort, the information in the story did not match up with what some of them remembered. For example, several were certain that there were between forty-eight and fifty-two women who had initially signed up, that there were more than forty-one women who passed out, and that a much smaller number (twelve) went on for officer training, with about half those receiving officer commissions.
  8. In the last twenty years or so, it has been common for newspapers in Fiji to get some facts wrong, as the industry struggles to withstand increased restrictions on media freedom from successive governments coupled with growing dissatisfaction amongst journalists and other staff with employment conditions that are not keeping pace with rising costs of living. More and more readers vote with their fingers in an age where internet media is able to service diverse demands for news.[8] However, in the pre-internet 1980s, the Fiji Times, as the oldest newspaper in the country (having been established in 1869), was still considered a reliable source of information, and indeed, a standard bearer for grammar, punctuation and use of the Queen's English in this former British colony. How are we to understand the modest manner in which this first cohort of FMF servicewomen was covered in the newspaper? It is probable that it had to do with journalistic nervousness around military issues in a country that was recovering from the experience of two military coups the year before, more than a deliberate attempt to obfuscate or diminish the authentic stories of pioneering women.
  9. Over a quarter of a century later, the specular fascination with Fiji servicewomen that this Fiji Times story signals has grown, and has become more pronounced. It is most evident in photographs and feature stories in national newspaper and magazine features,[9] but it is generally accompanied by a noticeable lack of curiosity about antecedents or the sorts of historical factors that might be producing the phenomenon of militarisation for women from Fiji. So it is almost predictable that the history of Fiji women in military service has never been written. Yet the neglect of this historiographical lacuna becomes surprising when one considers that Fiji women have been serving in armed forces for over fifty years, and that we can effectively identify two pioneering cohorts of Fiji women—one in the British Army (BA) in 1961 and the other in the Fiji Military Forces (FMF) in 1988—and a third generation of women since 1998 for whom service in both the BA or the FMF have been available as options.
  10. Authoritative firsthand and secondary accounts of historical events in Fiji make no mention of Fiji's first women soldiers. The Governor of Fiji in 1961 was Sir Kenneth Maddocks and he had to sign off approval for every one of the soldiers that the BA recruited in that year.[10] In his memoir of over thirty years' colonial service in Nigeria and Fiji, Maddocks recalled that the BA had recruited 'several dozen' young men from Fiji, some of whom he met with again when he returned to England to retire.[11] Very few primary accounts have been published about the BA recruitment, so it is disappointing that in his golden years Governor Maddocks could not remember that not only had he signed off on the enlistment of rather more than 'several dozen' men (for the BA had enlisted two hundred from Fiji), but he had also authorised the inclusion of twelve women, making the total 212. Maddocks' poor memory might be forgiven since he admitted in the memoir that he had not kept a journal during his career in the colonies, but what of professional historians writing about Fiji's experience of colonial rule and national development?
  11. Fiji's most prolific and preeminent historian, Brij Lal, did not find the British recruitment worthy of mention in a chapter he wrote on the 'Winds of Change' that swept through Fiji in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and did not cite Maddocks' memoir for his chapter either.[12] Lal ended his history of twentieth-century Fiji in the fateful year of the coups of 1987, and therefore was unable to address the subsequent admission of women into the FMF in 1988. However, given that women received very short shrift in the eighty-seven years he did cover in this book (five indexical references in total-four from the colonial era, and only one post-independence), it is debatable whether the pioneer FMF women would have gotten any attention at all under his lens even if he had extended the period of his examination. The neglect of women in the secondary literature on Fiji's history makes contextualising the history of Fiji women soldiers even more of a challenge. Since there are very few secondary sources on the histories of women in Fiji at all—the most robust scholarly monographs being a history of white women in colonial Fiji and a contemporary history of women activists[13]—it has required my doing a lot more primary work in order to understand the multiple historical contexts that have produced women soldiers from Fiji.
  12. Fiji's modern military history has its origins in a native constabulary force that the British colonial administration had inherited from the government of Ratu Seru Cakobau, the indigenous paramount chief of Bau who had initiated the cession of Fiji to Great Britain in 1874. As has been documented amply elsewhere, British colonial policy in collusion with indigenous chiefly elites had sought to shield the majority of indigenous Fijians from the ravages of competitive political and commercial activity. As part of a British colonial strategy of benevolence towards indigenous Fijians, a system of indenture brought thousands of Indians to Fiji as plantation labourers to make the colony productive.[14] The radically different experiences of colonialism for the two ethnic groups produced the perception of a cultural and political 'lag' or divide between them, especially in relation to competence in the modern economy. Although the lag or divide was colonially produced, nationalist elements in the indigenous Fijian population readily used it to fuel resentment of and distrust towards Indo-Fijians. As a result, at independence it became easy for the indigenous chiefly elite who inherited governance of the country to transform an institution like the military from a colonial tool of pacification into a nationalist instrument for social mobility and development.
  13. The FMF went from having a regular force of 800 at independence in 1970 to 6000 in 1987.[15] How did this happen? In the 1970s, circumstances on the global scene seemed to provide a new opportunity for the employment of indigenous Fijians and a valuable source of foreign revenue for a young and developing nation: the United Nations required international peacekeeping forces to support multilateral attempts to stabilise the Middle East. Because indigenous Fijians had distinguished themselves in military service during World War II and had demonstrated their commitment to dominant British and American ideas of a 'free world' in their contributions to the British anti-communist campaign in Malaya in the 1950s, they were approached by the UN as a reliable and capable force.
  14. Fiji's engagements in peacekeeping in the Middle East thus led to a gradual increase in its armed forces again. When the first contingent of Fijian peacekeepers was deployed to Lebanon in 1978, the regular forces had grown to a total of 1300. According to the Defence White Paper of 1997, 120 men were dispatched per month (for each of eleven months of the year). Each tour of duty was a year long. In subsequent years, as the UN's peacekeeping requirements in the Middle East expanded, Fiji forces were also posted to the Sinai beginning in 1982. By 1986, and after a fairly steady pattern of growth, the FMF had reached 2200 in size. Then in 1987 there was a dramatic spike, with the number of regular forces rising meteorically to 6000. That year also saw Fiji's first two military coups, and understandably the military came to be perceived by many as a threat to democratic society. In the decade after the 1987 coups, the force was gradually reduced in size until it reached a region below 4000. All official statistics since 1997 estimate the regular force to be no greater than 4000. But if we account for the close to 5000 territorials engaged by the FMF, the over 2000 Fiji citizens serving in the British Army and by some estimates 3000 of its nationals working in the international Private Security industry, Fiji can be described as one of the most militarised nations in the Pacific Island region.[16] The processes by which Fiji has been militarised historically, however, have been overwhelmingly focused on coopting indigenous Fijian men and the culture of indigenous Fijian masculinity.[17] In his study of the ideological capture of the FMF by specific indigenous Fijian chiefly elites and the hierarchy of the Methodist church in Fiji, Winston Halapua called for more research on questions of gender, and the relationship between the military and women in Fiji.[18] My research has been a direct response to this call.
  15. Colonialism, nationalism and post-/neo-colonialism have produced distinct social, political and economic conditions and rationales for the recruitment of Fiji women as soldiers. The first professional women soldiers were recruited into the BA while Fiji was still a British colony, and had in fact been a colony for eighty-seven years, or over three generations. Although the FMF existed when the BA arrived to recruit Fijians in 1961, women were not eligible to serve with men locally. By giving Fiji women opportunities for social mobility that were not available in their native land, the BA reinforced the perception of both colonisers and the colonised that the culture of the metropolitan centre was advanced, modern and enlightened. Chronologically, the second group of women from Fiji to be recruited into armed forces was actually the first cohort of FMF women. As mentioned earlier, they began their service in 1988, by which time Fiji had been politically independent from Great Britain for eighteen years. The adolescent nation had experienced some painful and challenging growing pains in the areas of social, political and economic development. When the Fiji Times reported forty-one women had marched in a passing out parade on 29 March of that year, this was just ten months after the military had begun to intervene in Fiji's fledgling democratic process by overthrowing an elected government in the name of protecting indigenous rights. The FMF's first women soldiers thus entered the service in the context of an indigenous nationalist movement that relied on military force to make good on its claims.
  16. The next significant period of women's recruitment into armed service, again as signalled previously, occurred around 1998 and continues to the present. This historical juncture is marked by the BA's return to resume recruiting in its former colony, as the FMF continues its own recruitment for national service and international peacekeeping. This conjunction of both BA and FMF activities is partly why it is useful to think of this as a post-/neo-colonial era. The 'post' in post-colonial signifies both an 'after' colonialism, as well as a critique of and speaking back to colonialism; the 'neo' in neo-colonial suggests a repetition of colonial relationships of inequality under the guise of sovereign and consensual international affairs.[19] The BA's relationship with Fiji as a former British colony is indisputably neo-colonial; while the FMF seeks to reposition itself as the standard bearer of Fiji's post-colonial moment. The coexistence of neo-colonial and post-colonial relationships makes the contemporary era a particularly complex one for both description and analysis.
  17. The three generations of military servicewomen from Fiji in the BA and FMF that I have outlined here could also be thought of as two generations of Fiji women in the BA and two generations of women in the FMF, respectively. However, because the gap between the 1961 and 1998 BA recruitments is constituted by thirty-seven years, the BA effectively skipped a generation before returning to recruit Fijians. It is also useful to think of the post-1998 BA and FMF recruits as members of a single generation because it helps to accentuate the range of choices open to them in the contemporary post-/neo-colonial era. For all three of the historical periods of colonialism, nationalism, or post-/neo-colonialism, it is important to account for both the global and local contexts which have contributed to what makes Fiji women soldiers.
  18. In 1961 although Fiji was still a British colony, Britain was well on its way down the path towards decolonisation-admittedly, having been pushed decisively by India in 1947. In the post-World War II era, British citizens were understandably war-weary. When peacetime conscription wound up in 1960, the turbulence of decolonisation and Cold War ideology provided little motivation to lure British citizens to enlist voluntarily in sufficient numbers. The BA therefore sought to make up the deficit by recruiting from its colonies.[20] In 1961 it was the Seychelles and Fiji that had provided the BA with enthusiastic young men and women for military service. Later Jamaica and other Caribbean colonies would become preferred sources for the BA.
  19. The BA had been admitting British women as volunteers for non-nursing roles since as early as World War I, and inaugurated a uniformed service for women in 1938 but segregated its male and female forces until 1992.[21] The twelve women recruited from Fiji in 1961 therefore were sent to serve in the Women's Royal Army Corps (WRAC). Their contracts were for three years, and it appears they were not offered the opportunity to renew them. Although the BA had recruited 200 men from Fiji at the same time and posted them to a variety of bases around Britain, Germany and other British territories in Europe such as Cyprus, the WRAC kept the Fiji women in service mostly around England, with only one of the women being seconded briefly to a base in Edinburgh. Inexplicably, although there was considerable media excitement in both Fiji and the UK around their recruitment, the eventual achievements of Fiji's pioneer women soldiers—especially given that three of them rose to the rank of sergeant—went largely uncelebrated and undocumented by Fiji's historians.
  20. The year 1961 is easily overshadowed in Fiji's history by industrial unrest, anti-colonial protests and what colonial officials tried to characterise as the 'race riots' of 1958–9.[22] The 212 men and women selected for service in the BA represented a deliberate effort by both metropolitan and colonial officials to account for Fiji's ethnic diversity: among the twelve women there were three indigenous Fijians, one indigenous Rotuman, seven of mixed European and indigenous heritage, and one Indo-Fijian. The majority of the women had completed secondary school, and one of them had completed a tertiary qualification.[23] All twelve women spoke English with fluency, much to the surprise of their British colleagues in the BA. While all British women over the age of twenty-one could legally exercise the right to vote since the extension of the franchise in 1928, this pioneer cohort of Fiji women soldiers went off to serve in the WRAC at a time when only Europeans and Indians could elect their representatives in Fiji's legislative assembly and neither women nor indigenous men in Fiji had the right to vote. Coincidentally, in his New Year's address of 1961 Governor Kenneth Maddocks announced that moves would soon be under way to extend suffrage to women. It was a matter of some irony, then, that when women in Fiji got to vote for the first time in 1963, Fiji's pioneer women soldiers were unable to participate because they were completing their military service in the WRAC.[24]
  21. The next generation of servicewomen from Fiji emerged twenty-seven years after the 1961 BA cohort, and eighteen years after the country had gained independence from Great Britain, when the FMF finally opened its doors to women in 1988. At the time, the FMF and Fiji on the whole were trying to recover from the upheaval of two military coups in the previous year.[25] When I interviewed him in 2008, the man who was commander and Brigadier of the FMF at the time, Sitiveni Rabuka, explained to me why he had approved the admission of women:

      There were rapid vacancies and an urgent need to fill promotions in civil service. There was also the issue of Fiji's response to the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)…. Women had served in the Police Force for a long time…. And the inclusion of military servicewomen was a universal trend.[26]

  22. A combination of local and global contexts thus clearly shaped the policy shift in the FMF. In previous work, I have documented the loss of public servants to post-coup emigration as well as the resulting militarisation of the public service due to military secondments in earlier research.[27] Rabuka's assertion that responsiveness to CEDAW was part of the motivation for recruiting women to the FMF certainly aligns with other developments in the nationalist post-coup era, such as the establishment of a Ministry of Women for the first time. But more tellingly, as I've suggested in a previous article, the 1988 FMF cohort demonstrated how a nationalist agenda could coopt the energies of talented, resilient young women at the very moment that more explicitly feminist organisations such as the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre and Fiji Women's Rights Movement, were beginning to gain a public profile.[28] As Nicole George has pointed out, most of Fiji's feminist activists in the late 1980s identified themselves publicly with democratic principles and shunned the indigenous and nationalist turn in Fiji's national politics that Rabuka represented.[29] What is curious about the coincidence of the FMF opening its doors to women and the rise of Fiji's most important women's rights groups is the lack of commentary from the latter on the former.[30]
  23. Although feminist groups in Fiji may have regarded the 1988 cohort with skepticism, the first women recruited into the FMF can in some ways be seen as feminist pioneers. For one thing, as they had been targeted explicitly for officer service, they would be in positions of command over male subordinates. For Rabuka the rationale was simply that women were 'easier to absorb at that level, and easier to fit into administration. The authority issue was not a problem-we took it for granted that soldiers would obey officers even if they were women.'[31]
  24. Targeting the first cohort of women for officer service involved a curious mixing of signals about gender inequality, however. The entry qualifications for women were university entrance and high school completion, while for men it was Form 4 or Year 10 completion. On one hand, women could be seen as being disadvantaged as a whole by the higher entry qualifications required of them. On the other hand, the system could be interpreted as benefitting women because they were being treated, as a whole, as more suitable for officer service than new male recruits as a whole. This second point gives us pause to consider some gendered 'class' issues surrounding the 1988 cohort's recruitment, that is that men were a group in which militarised class differences were pronounced. A number of the senior male FMF officers I spoke to stated that women could be more easily integrated into the officer corps because it was constituted by a more educated class of men. Men of 'other ranks' on the other hand, they said, could not be relied upon to respond to women as their equals in a genteel manner.[32] Women who entered the FMF officer corps could expect to be treated with respect by their male peers-because the males were officers (and enlightened gentlemen); and women officers could expect to be treated with respect by their male subordinates-because men of other ranks should be sufficiently disciplined not try to resist an officer's command (even if she was a woman).
  25. Recall for a moment the newspaper article which covered the passing out parade in which the FMF's first women recruits made their debut: the article suggested that future recruitments of women would soon follow, and that the inaugural cohort would be responsible for training subsequent ones. In actual fact, only a trickle of new women recruits followed—two in 1995–1996 and another two in 1998. The next major recruitment of women into the FMF did not take place until 2003–2004 as a result of Fiji being engaged by the UN to provide security to its personnel in Iraq, and since then there have been regular intakes of women. In 2009 the FMF had 82 to 92 women on its books, but the most recent surge of recruitment around the deployment of peacekeeping troops from Fiji to Syria's Golan Heights in 2013 will mean the numbers could have easily doubled. In this century's FMF recruiting drives, women have no longer been targeted primarily for officer service. Although it took over a decade for another cohort as large as the 1988 women to emerge in the FMF, the pioneers seem to have successfully paved the way for the next generation of women soldiers.
  26. In the period after 1998, the BA returned to recruit in Fiji once more. Two women joined twenty men in that first enlistment of Fijians by the British since 1961. Initial recruitments for the first decade or so involved BA staff travelling periodically to British Commonwealth countries to conduct screenings and selections in person. By 2008, as the cost of the post-9/11 operations in Afghanistan and Iraq began to take their toll, MOD funding restrictions had transformed the process to one in which applicants had to pay for their own travel and accommodation in London, without any guarantees of selection. Commonwealth recruitment has now ceased,[33] but over 2000 Fiji citizens are still serving in the BA. Of these, in 2008 between 135 and 142 were women. Fiji women serving in the BA have regularly put themselves forward for service in Afghanistan and Iraq, the most dangerous theatres of operation, and have also been posted to British overseas bases in Germany, Cyprus, and Kenya.
  27. With the removal of restrictions on women serving in combat positions in the US and the UK—the most powerful military forces in the Anglocentric world—the gaze of both scholars and the international public is increasingly drawn to the roles of women in the military. The international literature on this topic burgeoned with the increase of women's enlistment into armed forces in the period after World War II, their recounting of their own stories, and the development of critical feminist analyses.[34] Feminist researchers have contributed enormously to understanding how the military (as a social institution) and militarisation (as a social process) work.[35] A critical aspect of militarisation that feminists have helped to illuminate is the way that military service gets linked to notions of graduated standards of citizenship.[36] Thus, in any given nation-state, the extent to which a previously excluded group (e.g. women, ethnic and sexual minorities) is afforded access to military service is often taken as a sign of increased democratisation within the military, and by extension interpreted to indicate the possibility of expanded citizenship within the wider national community.[37] While some schools of feminist thought pursue a line of liberal egalitarianism that sees women as having both the right and responsibility of serving in national armed forces, other feminists comprehend both the limitations and contradictions of seeking to fulfil feminist goals in patriarchal masculinist institutions such as the military.[38]
  28. What examining each of the three generations of Fiji women soldiers in tandem throws into relief is the changing historical contexts of Britain and the BA, and Fiji and the FMF over half a century. As an institution or organisation, whether in Britain or Fiji, the military has changed in dramatic ways over the period that we have seen the three generations of Fiji women serve. When the Fiji women entered the BA in 1961, the service was segregated by gender, and the WRAC had its own officer corps and command structure. Fiji women in the 1960s and Fiji women since 1998 were and are excluded from officer service in the BA by virtue of not being British citizens. Some thirty years later the BA would eventually transition into an integrated force. The FMF on the other hand continued to exclude women altogether until 1988, but when it did recruit them, they were targeted for officer service—the rationale being that it would be easier to integrate them among the more educated ranks of military men. Fiji women in the pioneer cohorts of both the BA and FMF were offered trades and assignments that were not much different from the types of work that was common for women in civilian society. Now that women are almost fully 'integrated' into both the BA and FMF, gender issues seem to have less salience than economic ones, at least for the Fiji women I have interviewed and spoken with. All Fiji soldiers, whether male or female, are concerned first and foremost about securing livelihoods and I have found the women soldiers whom I met from each generation to be strikingly pragmatic about their choices. The military itself has changed: it went from being a gender-segregated service in the colonial period to providing development alternatives for indigenous Fijians in a nationalist period while at the same time transforming itself into the most important political actor in Fiji. Today, militarisation is dispersed across a range of sectors and with different actors including the FMF, the BA, and private security contractors. In such a post-/neo-colonial phase of militarisation, the answer to what makes Fiji women soldiers is disconcerting: for the answer is not singular but plural and various.


    [1] Chandra Talpade Mohanty, 'Under western eyes: Feminist scholarship and colonial discourses,' Feminist Review vol. 30 (1988): 61–88.

    [2] John Keegan, World Armies 2nd edition, Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Company, 1983.

    [3] Teresia Teaiwa, 'Articulated cultures: Militarism and masculinities in Fiji during the mid-1990s,' Fijian Studies: A Journal of Contemporary Fiji vol. 3, no. 2 (2005):201–22.

    [4] Teaiwa, 'Articulated cultures'; Teresia K. Teaiwa, 'Militarism, tourism and the native: Articulations in Oceania,' Ph.D. thesis, University of California, Santa Cruz, 2001.

    [5] E.g. Cynthia Enloe, Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives, Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 2000; Cynthia Enloe, Does Khaki Become You? The Militarization of Women's Lives, London, Pandora Press; San Francisco: Harper/Collins, 1988.

    [6] James Clifford, 'The Tjibaou Centre: Post-/Neo-colonialism in New Caledonia and Paris, University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Anthropology, co-sponsored by the Department of History, 9 April 2010; James Clifford, 'Post-Neo colonial situations: Notes on historical realism today,' in Literatura e viagens pós-coloniais (ACT, No. 6), ed. Helena Carvalhão Buesco and Manuelo Reibeiro Sanches, Lisbon: EdiÁões Colibri, 2002: 9–32.

    [7] William Copeland, 'Eyes Right!' the Fiji Times, 2 April 1988, p. 1.

    [8] David Robie, Mekim Nius: South Pacific Media, Politics and Education, Suva: University of the South Pacific Book Centre, 2004.

    [9] E.g. Vasiti Ritova, 'Sky's the limit for Taka,' in Mai Life no. 36 (2010): 49–51.

    [10] Pacific Islands Monthly vol. 31, no. 12 (1961): 19.

    [11] Kenneth Maddocks, No Fixed Abode: An Account of Colonial Service in Nigeria and Fiji and of Subsequent Work in London and East Africa, Aldeburgh: Kenneth Maddocks, 1988, p. 143.

    [12] Brij Lal, Broken Waves: A History of the Fiji Islands in the Twentieth Century, Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1992.

    [13] Claudia Knapman, White Women in Fiji 1835-1930: The Ruin of Empire? Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1986; Nicole George, Situating Women: Gender Politics and Circumstance in Fiji, Canberra: ANU Press, 2012, online: (accessed 9 March 2015).

    [14] E.g. Lal, Broken Waves; Vijay Naidu, The Violence of Indenture in Fiji, Lautoka: Fiji Institute of Applied Science, 2004; George, Situating Women.

    [15] Fiji Parliament, Defending Fiji: Defence White Paper, Parliamentary Paper No. 3, Suva, Fiji: Parliament of Fiji, 1997.

    [16] Nic Maclellan, 'Fiji, the war in Iraq and the privatization of Pacific Island security,' APSNet Policy Forum, 6 April 2006, online: (accessed 14 January 2015); Teresia Teaiwa, 'On women and "Indians": The politics of inclusion and exclusion in militarized Fiji,' in Rethinking Security: Gender, Race and Militarization, ed. Barbara Sutton, Sandra Morgen and Julie Novkov, New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2008, pp. 111–35. Teaiwa, 'Articulated cultures,' p. 202.

    [17] See Winston Halapua, Tradition, Lotu and Militarism in Fiji, Lautoka: Fiji Institute of Applied Studies, 2003; Tevita Nawadra, "Ai Matai"—Malaya 1st Battalion; Fiji Infantry Regiment, Far East Land Forces 1952–1956, Suva: Republic of Fiji Military Forces, 1995. PCRC, Kirisimasi: na sotia kei na lewe ni mataivalu e wai ni Viti e na vakatovotovo iyaragi nei Beretania mai Kirisimasi/Fijian Troops at Britain's Christmas Island Nuclear Tests, Suva: Pacific Concerns Resource Centre, 1999; Asesela Ravuvu, Fijians at War 1939–1945, Suva: Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, 1988.

    [18] Halapua, Tradition, Lotu and Militarism.

    [19] Clifford, 'The Tjibaou Centre'; and 'Post-Neo colonial situations'; Kwame Nkrumah, Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism, London: Heinemann Educational, 1968; Jean-Paul Sartre, Colonialism and Neo-Colonialism, London: Routledge, 2005; Robert Young, Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

    [20] J.C.M. Baynes, The Soldier in Modern Society, London: Eyre Methuen, 1972.

    [21] 'British Army Structure,' Army, online: (accessed 14 January 2015).

    [22] James Heartfield, '"The dark races against the light?" Official reaction to the 1959 Fiji riots,' The Journal of Pacific History vol. 37, no. 1 (2002): 75–86; Lal, Broken Waves.

    [23] While secondary school education had been available for European, part-European and indigenous elite boys since 1879, European and part-European girls had been catered for only since the end of World War I, and indigenous Fijian girls had more recently been provided secondary school education since 1948.

    [24] As British subjects, but not citizens, they were also excluded from voting in the British general elections of 1964.

    [25] Brij Lal, Power and Prejudice: The Making of the Fiji Crisis, Wellington: New Zealand Institute of International Affairs, 1988; Deryck Scarr, Fiji: Politics of Illusion: The Military Coups in Fiji, Kensington, NSW: New South Wales University Press, 1988.

    [26] Sitiveni Rabuka, interview with author, Suva, 26 September 2008.

    [27] Teaiwa, 'Articulated cultures,' p. 215; and 'Militarism, tourism and the native,' p. 117.

    [28] Teaiwa, 'On women and "Indians,"' p. 127.

    [29] George, Situating Women.

    [30] Teaiwa, 'On women and "Indians,"' p. 128.

    [31] Rabuka, interview with author.

    [32] I interviewed currently serving senior officers in 2008 and 2009 on the understanding that I would not quote them by name in any publications that resulted from my research.

    [33] Michael Evans, 'How British Army is fast becoming foreign legion,' UK News, the Times, 14 November 2005, online (accessed 8 February 2015). Ministry of Defence, 'UK residency rules for Armed Forces recruits', 12 July 2013, (accessed 8 February 2015).

    [34] Lucy Noakes, Women in the British Army: War and the Gentle Sex, 1907–1948, London: Routledge, 2006; Gina M Perez, 'How a scholarship girl becomes a soldier: The militarization of latina/o youth in Chicago public schools,' Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power vol. 13, no. 1 (2006): 53–72; Mary Fainsod Katzenstein and Judith Reppy, Beyond Zero Tolerance: Discrimination in Military Culture, Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 1999; Judith Stiehm, Arms and the Enlisted Woman, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989; Enloe, Does Khaki Become You?; Margaret Kamester and Jo Vellacott (eds), Militarism Versus Feminism: Writings on Women and War, London: Virago Press, 1987; Jean Bethke Elshtain, Women and War, New York: Basic Books, 1987; Wendy Chapkis, Loaded Questions: Women in Militaries, Washington: Institute for Policy Studies, 1982; Leanne Holm, Women in the Military: An Unfinished Revolution, Novato, CA: Presidio, 1982.

    [35] Enloe, Maneuvers; Carol Cohn, 'Clean bombs and clean language,' in Women, Militarism and War: Essays in History, Politics, and Social Theory, ed. Jean Bethke Elshtain and Sheila Tobias, Savage, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 1990, pp. 33–55; Jacklyn Cock and Laurie Nathan, War and Society: The Militarisation of South Africa, Capetown: David and Phillip, 1989.

    [36] Enloe, Maneuvers; Ilene Rose Feinman, Citizenship Rites: Feminist Soldiers and Feminist Antimilitarists, New York: New York University Press, 2000. Katzenstein and Reppy, Beyond Zero Tolerance.

    [37] Enloe, Maneuvers, p. 16.

    [38] Feinman, Citizenship Rites, pp. 11–43.


Published with the support of Gender and Cultural Studies, School of Culture, History and Language, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University.
© Copyright
Page constructed by Carolyn Brewer.
Last modified: 12 March 2015 1057