Urban Oceania

Exploring Urban Social Change in Oceania

Reading Group Summary: September 28th, 2020

Article Discussed: Presterudstuen, G. H., & Schieder, D. (2016). Bati as bodily labour: Rethinking masculinity and violence in Fiji. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, 17(3-4), 213-230.

Jeannine Taleyratne

Presterudstuen and Schieder (2016) explores hegemonic masculinity through embodied social practices and reveals its negotiating relationship with bati ideology and the colonial influences of masculine identity. The author contextualises bati ideology by connecting it to its historical roots as an ideological construction of the male warrior, the reinforcer of the Fijian tradition and how the male body is shaped by its relationship with key institutions, land (vanua), people, the chiefly office and the church (lotu). As such, this bodily practice reveals both an aggressive, violent form of labour through which it is accentuated in the popular Fijian practices of rugby and boxing. Within the modern contexts, these performances reinforces discursive constructions of masculinity that is centred around physical strength, pride and stoicisim and not used to glorify these terms as intrinsically violent. The authors further reveals that the Fijian identity is also constructed by pre-colonial conceptions of warrirorism and reconstructed throughout Fiji’s colonial past. In order to explain the embodied experiences of masculinity, the authors draws upon Bourdieu’s (1990) theory that the body is enculturated through negotiating experiences of the Fijian tribal roots of masculinity and the Western-Christian ideals of masculinity as embodied in the social practice of rugby and boxing. To explain the Fijian masculine identity, the authors uses Becker (1995) to argue that the cultural discourses of toughness and strength are defined by kin relations through protection of their village, vanua rather than a representation of the self. This embedded concept of bati are symbolised and negotiated within popular practices of rugby and boxing, whereby Christian masculinity cultivated the male character through physical discipline, sacrifice, resilience and mateship and accepted by Fijian Chiefs to exert martial prowess. As such, the male identity is formed and exerted from its affiliations with pre-colonial Fiji through militarism or warrirorism as a prominent aspect of indigenous and Fijian national identity.


  • Lucas Watt

    I am a Post-Doctoral researcher on the ERC-funded TransOcean Project at the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), Norway. My portion of the project sets out to analyze maritime mobilities, exchange, and conservation, in the increasingly securitised region of Oceania. I graduated with a PhD from the School of Media and Communications at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University. My ethnographic fieldwork in Suva Fiji analyses how rural-urban migrants living in “informal settlements” articulate tradition in urban spaces.

Leave a Reply