chapter  3
24 Pages

Blood, Toil, and Tears: Rhetorics of Pain and Suff ering in African American and Indo-Fijian Citizenship Claims

BySUSANNA TRNKA

On May 14, 2010, Fiji celebrated the 131st anniversary of the fi rst Indian indentured laborers arriving on its shores. In a speech commemorating Girmit Day (Indenture Day), the former editor of the Fiji Times newspaper, Vijendra Kumar, declared the anniversary to be “a day of both sorrow and celebration-sorrow because it reminds us of the pain, suff ering, degradation and alienation of our ancestors. And celebration as well because their labor and indomitable spirit helped to create a prosperous and progressive nation.” With pointed reference to Fiji’s fi rst political coup in 1987, during which indigenous Fijian nationalists demanded the return of “Fiji for the Fijians” and the removal of an allegedly “Indian-dominated government,” Kumar added, “It was on this same historic day in 1987, 108 years after the fi rst girmitiya [Indian indentured laborer] arrived here, that a new era of girmit [indenture] began” (quoted in Rina 2010).