Somatic Sotia: Commodity Agency and the Fijian Military Body

Fijian bodies have become a valuable commodity in the economy of war. Remittances from workers overseas are Fiji’s largest income – exceeding that of tourism and sugar export. This project explores the trajectory of historical and contemporary representations of the Fijian military body that perpetuate the exploitation of Fijians by inscribing the Fijian male body as warrior, criminal and protector. My practice-based research seeks to explore the spaces in which the dialectics of race, embodiment, masculinity, globalisation, militarism, colonialism and agency meet, diverge and collide.

Through a discussion of my own studio practice and found vernacular soldier photography I present an alternative vision of Fijian military masculinities that considers the complex layers of indigenous Fijian value systems, spirituality and embodied knowledge and the tensions that arise within the context of the Western Military Industrial Complex. My studio practice doesn’t seek to provide a solution to this conflict, but should be viewed as a continuum of discoveries and revelations about what is seen, felt and known (embodiment) in contrast to what can be quantified, valued and sold (commodification).

Concentrating on the intersection of visual culture and geopolitics, my research contributes to the emerging genre of contemporary 'soldier photography' and suggests the possibility for vernacular soldier photography to be a subversive outlet for the performance of Fijian military identities and enables Fijian soldiers to be active agents in the representation and co-construction of the warrior mythology.

Images of the installation can be viewed here.

Read the full thesis here.