Brij V. Lal

Brij Lal has been working on a book of essays looking at the role of place in Pacific Islands scholarship as well as a collection marking the 125th anniversary of arrival of Indians in Fiji. He is also preparing for publication a documentary history of British decolonisation of Fiji and writing a biography of the Fiji statesman Jai Ram Reddy. He also maintains an active interest in creative writing and the relationship between history and fiction.

Levelling Wind »

Remembering Fiji

Authored by: Brij V. Lal
‘What I have sought to do in my work is to give voiceless people a voice, place and purpose, the sense of dignity and inner strength that comes from never giving up no matter how difficult the circumstances. History belongs as much to the vanquished as to the victors.’ — Brij V. Lal ‘Professor Brij Lal is the finest historian of the Indian indentured experience and the Indian diaspora. His Girmitiyas is a classic.’ — Emeritus Professor Clem Seecharan, London Metropolitan University ‘Brij Lal is a highly respected, versatile and imaginative scholar who has  made a lasting contribution to the historiography of the Pacific.’ — Dr Rod Alley, Victoria University of Wellington ‘Professor Brij Lal’s life is a remarkable journey of a scholar and an intellectual whose writings are truly transformative; a man of moral clarity and courage who also has deep pain at being cut off from his homeland.’ — Professor Michael Wesley, Dean of the College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University ‘Brij Lal is a singular scholar, whose work has spanned disciplines – from history, political commentary, encyclopedia, biography and “faction”. Brij is without doubt the most eminent scholar in the humanities and social sciences Fiji has ever produced. He also remains one of the most significant public intellectuals of his country, despite having been banned from entering it in 2009.’ — Emeritus Professor Clive Moore, University of Queensland ‘Brij Lal is an accomplished and versatile historian and true son of Fiji. Above all, there is affirmation here of the enduring worth of good literature and the value of good education that Lal received and wants others to experience. The world needs more Lals who speak out against ruling opinions and dare to stray into  the pastures of independent thought.’ — Professor Doug Munro, historian and biographer, Wellington, and Adjunct Professor at the University of Queensland

Political Life Writing in the Pacific »

Reflections on Practice

This book aims to reflect on the experiential side of writing political lives in the Pacific region. The collection touches on aspects of the life writing art that are particularly pertinent to political figures: public perception and ideology; identifying important political successes and policy initiatives; grappling with issues like corruption and age-old political science questions about leadership and ‘dirty hands’. These are general themes but they take on a particular significance in the Pacific context and so the contributions explore these themes in relation to patterns of colonisation and the memory of independence; issues elliptically captured by terms like ‘culture’ and ‘tradition’; the nature of ‘self’ presented in Pacific life writing; and the tendency for many of these texts to be written by ‘outsiders’, or at least the increasingly contested nature of what that term means.

The Coombs: A House of Memories »

Authored by: Brij V. Lal, Allison Ley
The Coombs Building at The Australian National University is a Canberra icon. Named after one of Australia’s greatest administrators and public intellectuals—‘Nugget’ Herbert Cole Coombs—for more than forty years the building has housed two of the University’s four foundational Schools: the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies and the Research School of Social Sciences. This volume of recollections is about the former. It looks at life in the building through the prism of personal experience and happenstance. Part memoir, part biography, and part celebration, this book is about the people of Coombs, past and present. Through evocative and lucid reflections, present and former denizens of the building share their passions and predilections, quietly savour their accomplishments and recall the failings and foibles of the past with a kindly tolerance.

The Boy from Boort »

Remembering Hank Nelson

Edited by: Bill Gammage, Brij V. Lal, Gavan Daws
Hank Nelson was an academic, film-maker, teacher, graduate supervisor and university administrator. His career at The Australian National University (ANU) spanned almost 40 years of notable accomplishment in expanding and deepening our understanding of the history and politics of Papua New Guinea, the experience of Australian soldiers at war, bush schools and much else. This book is a highly readable tribute to him, written by those who knew him well, including his students, and also contains wide-ranging works by Hank himself. –Professor Stewart Firth, ANU.

Mr Tulsi's Store »

A Fijian journey

Authored by: Brij V. Lal
Professor Lal has been remarkably successful in combining scholarship with autobiography in Mr Tulsi’s Store. In the essays which cover the author’s childhood and education up to university, diligent scholarship combines with evocative autobiographical details to reveal a philosophical pattern that encompasses the experience of the descendants of all Indian indentured workers everywhere. Professor Frank Birbalsingh York University Canada

Turnings »

Fiji Factions

Authored by: Brij V. Lal
Through Dr Lal’s refreshingly clear and powerful prose and sharply observed stories, we enter the inner world of Indo-Fijian feeling and aspiration. One universal that emerges with particular clarity in the Indo-Fijian experience is the ceaseless struggle to find community in a changing world, balancing the beauty of ritual and tradition against the transcendent value of education and modern rationality. The volume poses the question of how people draw upon historical memory and immediate circumstances to create a social world, and how that world can be shared with others in multicultural society. The answer seems to lie somewhere between history and poetry, as in Dr Lal’s ‘factions.’ Andrew Arno University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu

Chalo Jahaji »

On a journey through indenture in Fiji

Authored by: Brij V. Lal
“It is a milestone in subaltern studies, a biographical journey penned by a living relic of the indentured experience and a scholar whose thoroughly interdisciplinary approach is a good example for the anthropologist, the sociologist or the economist who wish to see the proper integration of their disciplines in a major historical work.” — Brinsley Samaroo, University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus, Trinidad “Professor Lal has made a most distinguished contribution to scholarship on Indian indentured labour in Fiji. His research is characterised by the use of new methodological approaches to the study of history, and by a comprehensive consideration of both quantitative and literary sources. In beautifully written articles, he has arrived at fresh and novel findings.” — Ralph Shlomowitz, Flinders University of South Australia “Professor Lal has produced a body of work which makes him the premier scholar of the Indian diaspora. His meticulous research, the depth of scholarship, the empathy, and the elegance have earned him great respect among Indian diaspora scholars. The themes covered in this book are relevant to other overseas Indian communities; and they are handled with such mastery that his reputation is secured.” — Clem Seecharan, University of North London “Brij Lal’s Chalo Jahaji is an intensely personal journey through his life and that of the 60,000 Indians who became girmitiyas in Fiji. The intricate history is measured, but Lal reveals himself and his family in a way historians seldom do. This proud grandson of a girmitiya is equally a proud son of Fiji. Chalo Jahaji is Pacific history at its best: rigorous and critical, informative and involved.” — Clive Moore, University of Queensland

Electoral systems in divided societies »

The Fiji constitution

Edited by: Brij V. Lal, Peter Larmour
Elections can increase tension in ethnically divided societies, like Fiji. The way constituencies are drawn and votes counted can also affect the result. First-past-the post can deliver lopsided results, while proportional representation may give excessive influence to small, fringe parties. Fiji’s Constitution Review Commission believed a system of alternative voting in ethnically mixed constituencies would encourage politicians, and parties, to take into account the interests of other ethnic groups. This book assesses their recommendations, looks at alternatives, and considers how they might work in Fiji. This work, originally published by Asia Pacific Press, is reproduced here in the interests of maintaining open access to high-quality academic works no longer in print.

Fiji before the storm »

Elections and the politics of development

Edited by: Brij V. Lal
A racially-weighted Constitution, promulgated by decree in 1990, divided the country and invited international condemnation, and the economy suffered from the collapse of institutions of good governance. In 1995, an independent Constitution Review Commision appointed by the Fijian parliament, recommended wide-ranging changes to the Constitution. Its report formed the basis of a new Constitution promulgated, after wide-ranging consultation and debate, in 1997. Two years later, Fiji held a general election under it. This collection of essays looks at the politics and dynamics of that momentous event, and the role of key individuals and institutions in producing an outcome that, a year later, plunged Fiji into its first major crisis of the twenty-first century. The essays look at some of the key political and development issues on the eve of the crisis, but the relevance to the current debates about the nature and meaning of politics in Fiji remains. All the contributors are recognised and longstanding specialists in their fields. This work, originally published by Asia Pacific Press, is reproduced here in the interests of maintaining open access to high-quality academic works no longer in print.

Intersections »

History, Memory, Discipline

Authored by: Brij V. Lal
“A wonderfully rich, insightful and personally touching collection of essays by the Pacific region’s most prolific and engaging historian. Brij Lal writes eloquently and poetically about his professional and political journeys, and the many different people and worlds he has encountered on the way. Readers will be inspired by this collective account of a courageous life committed to the achievement of democratic freedom and social justice. What shines through these pages is Lal’s love of and commitment to Fiji, from which he has been painfully exiled.” — David Hanlon, Professor of History & Former Director of the Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawaii at Manoa.  “Intersections is a compilation of Brij Lal’s essays where academic knowledge combines with life world experience. The voice behind these essays is always courageous and the writing itself indicative of a highly disciplined mind. Read this book with an open mind as Lal explores with sensitivity a country he loves intensely and as he reminisces on the vocation of a scholar. Savour the book’s historical insights, enter into its subaltern worlds, debate and challenge its findings, and in that moment of engagement shed a tear for a country which has lost its memory.” — Vijay Mishra, Professor of English, Murdoch University  “Brij Lal is a master craftsman and all his skills are on display in this fascinating work which blends autobiography with social, political and historical analysis to produce a work of impeccable scholarship. Lal emerges as much more than a historian as he reflects on the discipline of History, the changing nature of academic life, the challenges of the Indian diaspora, indenture and his travels. He may be banned from his homeland, but somehow one gets the impression that his influence is alive in Fiji, his adopted Australia and across the world. True to his indentured roots, he is still digging, still writing, and still making history.” — Goolam Vahed, Associate Professor of History, University of KwaZulu-Natal 

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