State of Suffering: Political Violence and Community Survival in Fiji, by Susanna Trnka
Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2008. Reviewe by STEVEN RATUVA
THE DISCOURSE on Fiji’s embattled political history has often been the domain of historians, political scientists and economists and every now and then, the intellectual monotony is broken by streaks of intellectual freshness, which provide new prisms through which we can visualise the complex socio-political reality of the Fiji society. The book, State of Suffering: Political Violence and Community Survival in Fiji by Auckland University anthropologist Susanna Trnka, does just that.
The ethnographic approach shifts analysis away from the conventional broad-sweeping political narrative that political scientists and historians tend to thrive on and captures in a meticulous anthropological fashion, the living experiences and consciousness of individuals and communities, embroiled in a survival game amid the political chaos of the 2000 coup.
However, the absence of the role of the media in the book is quite conspicuous because, over the years, the media has been instrumental in reinforcing stereotypes, constructing prejudices and inflaming tension. The pattern of reporting between Indo-Fijian and indigenous Fijian journalists was quite apparent. There were indigenous Fijian reporters who were ‘embedded’ with the rebels and took a coup sympathy and justificatory stance and, on the other hand, many Indo-Fijian journalists took a ‘victimhood’ stance and were geared towards reporting the excesses of the coup.