rhis paper is concerned with the dramatic events surrounding the 1987 coup in Fiji. In
his respect it is hardly unique: although the coup occurred only five years ago,
Hundreds of thousands of words have already been published concerning its possible
explanations. Rather than attempt to compete directly with those many books and
articles, I seek to explain the explanations by surveying the key works on the coup mat
were available up to late 1990, categorizing the major explanations they give for the
coup, and offering my own opinions as to which explanations are the most valuable.
Newer works on the coup will, of course, present somewhat more sophisticated
explanations than were offered in the months of confusion which immediately
followed May 1987. Readers of this paper should keep in mind the time during
which the works surveyed were written; some explanations given weight during
1987 and 1988 are held in considerably less esteem now. I certainly do not wish to
suggest that the writers discussed herein should be held to every word they wrote
three or four years ago; I imagine, though, that they would continue to defend the
broad thrust of their arguments, just as I defend those that I have given here.
Thanks are due to several people who were involved in seeing this paper through
to its present form: Richard Herr, who supervised the original honours dissertation
and suggested its publication; Trevor Sofield, for extensively discussing the coup
with me in late 1990; William Sutherland, for many helpful and interesting
discussions about the 'politics of tradition'; Brij Lal and Stephanie Lawson, for their
specific advice about this paper and possible areas for its improvement; and Ron
May and Claire Smith for their editorial help. Finally, thank you to everyone in the
departments of Political Science, University of Tasmania, and Political and Social
Change, Research School of Pacific Studies, The Australian National University.