Urban island: Histories of dispossession and belonging in Suva
Land, village and family lie at the heart of identity and belonging throughout the Pacific, yet urban life has long evolved in parallel. This project examines Suva, Fiji’s capital, as a key space of cultural, economic, and environmental encounters: a central trade and tourism port at the heart of both British colonial rule and postcolonial regionalism. I will explore the contested process of Suva’s urbanisation from 1868—when a major Suva land purchase occurred—to the political coup of 2000, by examining the transformation of key spaces of integration and of separation in the urban environment. These spaces include the changing coastline and creeks, rara (village green) and parks, fences and boundaries, markets, cemeteries, and buildings. Largely absent in wider urban histories, this research considers what is distinctive about Pacific urbanisation, and situates Suva as an indigenous Pacific environment, as well as a colonial one, from its foundation. Using diverse sources, including archives, interviews, and literature, I will investigate the historical dimensions of urbanisation and the displacements and opportunities it produced for indigenous Fijians and diverse newcomers. This research will contribute new historical knowledge on identity formation, economic inequality, and environmental transformation in an increasingly urban, multicultural Pacific.