Ryan Schram Yawahigu ana amwahao Ol rot bilong laip bilong mi (or, Curriculum vitae)

The tribesmen next door: Macquarie anthropology colloquium presentation this Wednesday

If you are free from 1 to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, March 28, please come to my colloquium talk in the anthropology department at Macquarie University. It will be held in 06 First Walk, room 501 (formerly BlackShield Room, Building W3A 501).

I will be presenting a paper entitled “The tribesmen next door: The New Guinea Highlands in a postwar Papuan mission newspaper.” The abstract for the paper is:

Colonialism often advances by constructing a lawless frontier in which domination is legitimate humanitarian intervention. In this respect, representations which place people in a savage slot have been crucial to colonial dispossession. Yet colonial discourses must circulate to become dominant, and so the savage spaces they imagine take on a life of their own outside of colonial representations. Papuan Times, a newspaper produced by graduates of an industrial mission school at Kwato Island in the Australian external territory of Papua and New Guinea, reported the pacification the Highlands frontier in two distinct yet complementing ways. First, stories of government pacification of the Highlands serve to differentiate its Papuan native readers from those in so-called uncontrolled areas. Second, it reports the accounts of former Kwato mission students who work as missionaries in the Highlands. While the first positions readers at an encompassing level of the whole country, it also suggest they are simply controlled natives. The second strategy embeds Papuans and Highlanders in a new hierarchical relation in which Papuans are agents of moral change.

I am particularly excited to present this new paper since this is my first major piece of writing from a new research project on the development of journalism in colonial and postcolonial Papua New Guinea. Journalists and mass media institutions are, like ethnographers, producers of knowledge about society, yet in colonial and postcolonial societies, journalists often have to craft their reporting and analysis in a news discourse they did not invent and do not control. Nonetheless, Papua New Guinea journalists have developed diverse forms of knowledge about their societies and its changes through many different kinds of newswriting.

To examine this, I am not only delving deeply into the history of Papua New Guinea, but also working with new kinds of empirical data, especially written texts in English, Tok Pisin, and Motu, produced in social and political circumstances rather unfamiliar to me. All of this is to say that it is exciting to be gathering new data—you can see some of the slides from my talk here—and discussing new ideas, and I look forward to exchanging views with colleagues in the seminar at Macquarie tomorrow. I hope to see you there.