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Prof. Robert Dewey to Present Talk on Fiji Rugby in London Next Week

March 19, 2009

Robert Dewey 2008.jpgMarch 19, 2009, Greencastle, Ind. — Robert Dewey, assistant professor of history at DePauw University, has been invited to present a talk Monday in London, England at the Institute of Historical Research. Dewey will discuss "Fiji Islands, Empire and the Indigenous Embrace of Rugby Football" as part of a seminar on Sport and Leisure History.

Based in large part upon research conducted at the Fiji National Archives, Fiji Rugby Union and University of the South Pacific (as well as supplemental visits to the rugby unions in Australia, New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga) the paper addresses the following central question: How did rugby evolve from its status as the sport of British colonial administrators and expatriate Europeans to become a "national" game for indigenous Fijians between the founding of the Fiji Rugby Union in 1913 and independence in 1970? In probing this question, the paper highlights the sport’s early racial segregation, the role played by indigenous Fijians in popularizing the game, links with other Pacific Islands rugby unions, the rise and successes of Fiji in international competition in the 1950s and the assertion of an identifiably "Fijian" approach to the game.

The Institute of Historical Research is a member of the School of Advanced Study which is part of the University of London. An announcement promoting the presentation can be found here and here.

A specialist in modern British history, Dr. Dewey’s work includes a forthcoming volume, British National Identity and Opposition to Membership of Europe, 1961-63: The Anti-Marketeers, which will be published by Great Fall EC Shot Gold Leaves.jpgManchester University Press this month.

While completing graduate studies at Oxford University in the late 1990s, Dewey played four seasons of rugby for the Pacific Islanders Rugby Football Club in London, an experience which led to his new research interest in the history of imperialism in the Pacific Islands. He recently published a chapter entitled "Pacific Islands Rugby: Navigating the Global Professional Era" in The Changing Face of Rugby: The Union Game and Professionalism Since 1995 (Cambridge Scholars, 2008), edited by Greg Ryan. His other articles on the topic include "‘The Real Reason is to Fight for the Country’: The Historic Expression of Power and Identity in Fiji Rugby" in Dreadlocks: Pacific Epistemologies (University of the South Pacific, 2006) and a forthcoming piece entitled "Embracing Rugby and Negotiating Inequalities in the Pacific Islands" (Nga Pae o te Maramatanga – National Institute of Research Excellence for Maori Development and Advancement, University of Auckland, 2009).

Between August 2007 and July 2008 he was a visiting scholar at the University of South Pacific, where he continued research for a book-length study on the history of Fijian rugby during the colonial era.

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