The social consequences of control: Accounting for indentured labour in Fiji 1879 - 1920

Sharma, Umesh & Irvine, Helen (2016) The social consequences of control: Accounting for indentured labour in Fiji 1879 - 1920. Qualitative Research in Accounting and Management, 13(2).

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  • This is a study of the social consequences of accounting controls over labour. It examines the system of tasking used to control Indian indentured workers using a governmentality approach in the historical context of Fijian sugar plantations during the British colonial period, from 1879 to 1920.

Method/ Methodology

  • Archival data consisting of documents from the Colonial Secretary’s Office, reports and related literature on Indian indentured labour was accessed from the National Archives of Fiji. In addition, documented accounts of the experiences of indentured labourers over the period of the study give voice to the social costs of the indenture system, highlighting the social impact of accounting control systems.


  • Accounting and management controls were developed to extract surplus value from Indian labour. The practice of tasking was implemented in a plantation structure where indentured labourers were controlled hierarchically through a variety of calculative monitoring practices. This resulted in the exploitation and consequent economic, social and racial marginalisation of indentured workers. Originality: The paper contributes to the growing body of literature highlighting the social effects of accounting control systems. It exposes the social costs borne by indentured workers employed on Fijian sugar plantations.

Practice/ Research Implications

  • The study promotes better understanding of the practice and impact of accounting as a technology of government and control within a particular institutional setting, in this case the British colony of Fiji. By highlighting the social implications of these controls in their historical context, we alert corporations, government policy makers, accountants and workers to the socially damaging effects of exploitive management control systems.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 91954
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: governmentality, accounting control, tasking, accounting for labour, Fiji, Indentured workers, sugar industry
DOI: 10.1108/QRAM-04-2015-0039
ISSN: 1176-6093
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > ACCOUNTING AUDITING AND ACCOUNTABILITY (150100)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Accountancy
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2016 Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright Statement: This article is (c) Emerald Group Publishing and permission has been granted for this version to appear here ( Emerald does not grant permission for this article to be further copied/distributed or hosted elsewhere without the express permission from Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Deposited On: 18 Jan 2016 02:00
Last Modified: 19 Jun 2016 14:18

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