8 August 2012
Venue: Room 901, Level 9, Human Sciences Building (Building 201)
Host: Dr Phyllis Herda, Sr Lecturer, Dept of Anthropology, The University of Auckland
The 1918 influenza pandemic was a global health catastrophe killing upwards of 50 million people worldwide. In 1918 in western Polynesia it acquired enormous meaning and significance from its various cultural, political and economic contexts – from the ways in which it entered and effected the lives of the people, from the diverse public reactions it provoked and from the manner in which it gave expression to the underlying fears and antipathies of European colonization of the region. In part, the ‘flu was vehicle for the performance and expression of the colonial encounter. In this paper I consider the link between the 1918 influenza pandemic and colonialism in the British colony of Fiji. The pandemic was constructed by the various ethnic groups within Fiji -- indigenous Fijians, colonial papalangi, and indentured and migrant labourers as a site of colonial rule as it posed important questions about the authority of medical practitioners within the colonial order of Fiji.