Corporal destinies: Faith, ethno-nationalism, and raw talent in Fijian professional rugby aspirations

Daniel Guinness


Many young itaukei (indigenous) Fijian men train daily in the hope of becoming professional rugby athletes, despite the difficulty of this unpaid work and the uncertainty of the overseas careers to which they aspire. Rugby players and their families draw on a sense of destiny grounded in three ideologies of success to understand and control their futures. First, many view rugby in terms of an indigenous warrior ideal imagined as innate to itaukei men. Second, most Fijians link godliness, moral discipline, and religiosity to professional success. Third, they increasingly draw on ideas of natural talent, genetics, and pedigree widely held in global rugby. Ethnography among Fijian rugby players both in Fiji and abroad shows that this sense of destiny includes the future orientation of hope, but adds a moral imperative for action. Reading these emic conceptions of the future in terms of corporal and spiritual destiny highlights their influence not just on individual aspirations but also on social and political life, revealing both the power and limits of destiny as an analytical tool.


Fiji, rugby, Christianity, sports, masculinity, body, success, corporal destiny

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/698267