Vanua as Environment: Conservation, Farming, and Development in Waitabu, Fiji

by Hao-Li Lin, BA, Anthropology, National Taiwan University, 2004

Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Defended and approved on March 16th, 2015


This dissertation examines the idea of “environment” in Waitabu, an indigenous Fijian community on Taveuni Island, and how it influences the community’s participation in contemporary development projects.

My main argument is that vanua (a Fijian concept often translated as “land” but which also encompasses people, community, and custom) is an important framework through which the community negotiates social and biological changes through time. In other words, it is an “environment” in its totality.

I also argue that contrary to common understanding, vanua is a dynamic entity shaped by historical events rather than a set of rigid customary protocols, thus creating different trajectories of engagement with development projects. Two particular cases are analyzed here:

1) the “Waitabu Marine Park” conservation and ecotourism project;

2) the grassroots cash-cropping schemes and subsistence farming in the village.

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