A Mission Divided

A Mission Divided

Race, Culture and Colonialism in Fiji’s Methodist Mission

Authored by: Dr Kirstie Close-Barry orcid

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This book provides insight into the long process of decolonisation within the Methodist Overseas Missions of Australasia, a colonial institution that operated in the British colony of Fiji. The mission was a site of work for Europeans, Fijians and Indo-Fijians, but each community operated separately, as the mission was divided along ethnic lines in 1901. This book outlines the colonial concepts of race and culture, as well as antagonism over land and labour, that were used to justify this separation. Recounting the stories told by the mission’s leadership, including missionaries and ministers, to its grassroots membership, this book draws on archival and ethnographic research to reveal the emergence of ethno-nationalisms in Fiji, the legacies of which are still being managed in the post-colonial state today.

Analysing in part the story of her own ancestors, Kirstie Barry develops a fascinating account of the relationship between Christian proselytization and Pacific nationalism, showing how missionaries reinforced racial divisions between Fijian and Indo-Fijian even as they deplored them. Negotiating the intersections between evangelisation, anthropology and colonial governance, this is a book with resonance well beyond its Fijian setting.

– Professor Alan Lester, University of Sussex

This thoroughly researched and finely crafted book unwraps and finely illustrates the interwoven layers of evolving complexity in different interpretations of ideals and debates on race, culture, colonialism and independence that informed the way the Methodist Mission was run in Fiji. It describes the human personalities and practicalities, interconnected at local, regional and global levels, which influenced the shaping of the Mission and the independent Methodist Church in Fiji. It documents the influence of evolving anthropological theories and ecumenical theological understandings of culture on mission practice. The book’s rich sources enhance our understanding of the complex history of ethnic relations in Fiji, helping to explain why ethnic divisive thinking remains a challenge.

– Jacqueline Ryle, University of the South Pacific

A beautifully researched study of the transnational impact of South Asian bodies on nationalisms and church devolution in Fiji, and an important resource for empire studies as a whole.’

– Professor Jane Samson, University of Alberta, Canada


ISBN (print):
ISBN (online):
Publication date:
Dec 2015
ANU Press
State, Society and Governance in Melanesia
Arts & Humanities: Cultural Studies, History, Philosophy & Religion; Social Sciences: Anthropology, Indigenous Studies, Social Policy & Administration, Sociology
Pacific: Fiji


'A Mission Divided is a noteworthy contribution to this literature – one that carefully plots key moments in the history of the Methodist Overseas Missions of Australasia’s application of the “three selves” principle in ethnically-complex Fiji.’
—Daniel Midena, Australian Historical Studies Volume 48(2), 2017. 
Click here to read the full review

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