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Preparing a Nation? »

The New Deal in the Villages of Papua New Guinea

Authored by: Brad Underhill
Publication date: 2024
Preparing a Nation?, based on extensive archival research, addresses perennial questions of Australian colonialism in Papua New Guinea. To what extent did Australia prepare Papua New Guinea for independence? And what were the policies and the ideologies behind colonial development, implemented after World War Two? A key innovation of this book is to take these questions from policy desks in Canberra and Port Moresby to the villages of four administrative areas: Chimbu, Milne Bay, Sepik and New Hanover. How successful were Australian colonial planners in designing and implementing programs that could ameliorate the potential harm of market capitalism and develop ‘new’ socioeconomic structures that would combine a disparate people into an ‘imagined community’, capable of becoming an independent nation-state in the far distant future? Colonial intention is contrasted with Indigenous experience. Bradley Underhill explores an Australian governmental tendency to prioritise colonial control over Indigenous autonomy in circumstances where subjugated people do not necessarily fit within an expected narrative of compliant or westernised ‘native’. ‘I expect it will become the standard reference for its subject, which covers a pivotal aspect of Australia’s colonial administration.’ — Bill Gammage

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The Chinese in Papua New Guinea »

Past, Present and Future

Publication date: May 2024
Papua New Guinean, Chinese and Australian people have long been entangled in the creation of complex histories and political debates concerning the similarities and differences of each group. These debates are fundamental to understanding how a sense of national unity in Papua New Guinea is formed, as well as within analyses of the wider world of strategic power dynamics and influence. The Chinese in Papua New Guinea offers a comprehensive and nuanced examination of the Chinese in Papua New Guinea. Chinese, Papua New Guinean and Australian interactions are analysed in the context of ongoing shifts in colonial power, increased regional engagement with China, and current political instabilities across the Indo-Pacific region. The many ways the Chinese have been defined as actors in PNG’s history and politics are analysed against the backdrop of a rapidly changing global order. The complexity of Chinese experiences within Papua New Guinea is given expression, here, with chapters that stress political and historical heterogeneity, the importance of language for understanding Chinese social relations, and that articulate rich personal experiences of race relations.

Forty Years in the South Seas »

Archaeological Perspectives on the Human History of Papua New Guinea and the Western Pacific Region

Publication date: May 2024
“This edited volume of invited chapters honours the four decades of fundamental research by archaeologist Glenn Summerhayes into the human prehistory of the islands of the western Pacific, especially New Guinea and its offshore islands. This area helped to shape and direct many ancient dispersal events associated with Homo sapiens, initially from Africa more than 50,000 years ago, through the lower latitudes of Asia, into Australia, New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, and possibly the Solomon Islands. Around 3000 years ago, coastal regions of northern and eastern New Guinea, and the islands of Melanesia beyond, played a major role in the Oceanic migrations of Austronesian-speaking peoples from southern China and Southeast Asia, migrations that have recently attained new levels of genetic complexity through the analysis of ancient DNA from human remains. For the first time, humans of both Southeast Asian and New Guinea/Bismarck genetic origin reached the islands of Remote Oceania, beyond the Solomons. Many of the chapters in this book deal with archaeological aspects of this Austronesian maritime expansion (which never seriously impacted the populations of the New Guinea Highlands), especially as revealed through the analysis of Lapita pottery and associated artefacts. Other chapters offer archaeological perspectives on trade and exchange, and on related topics that extend into the ethnographic era. The research of Glenn Summerhayes stands centrally amongst all these offerings, ranging from the discovery of some of the oldest traces of Pleistocene human settlement in Papua New Guinea to documentation of the remarkable phenomenon of Lapita expansion through Melanesia into western Polynesia around 3000 years ago. This volume is a fitting celebration of a remarkable career in western Pacific archaeology and population history.” ­— Emeritus Professor Peter Bellwood, The Australian National University

Capital Punishment, Clemency and Colonialism in Papua New Guinea, 1954–65 »

Authored by: Murray Chisholm
Publication date: 2024
This study builds on a close examination of an archive of files that advised the Australian Commonwealth Executive on Papua New Guineans found guilty of capital offences in PNG between 1954 and 1965. These files provide telling insight into conceptions held by officials at different stages of the justice process into justice, savagery and civilisation, and colonialism and Australia’s role in the world. The particular combination of idealism and self-interest, liberalism and paternalism, and justice and authoritarianism axiomatic to Australian colonialism becomes apparent and enables discussion of Australia’s administration of PNG in the lead up the acceptance of independence as an immediate policy goal. The files show Australia gathering the authority to grant mercy into the hands of the Commonwealth and then devolving it back to the territories. In these transitions, the capital case review files show the trajectory of Australian colonialism during a period when the administration was unsure of the duration and nature of its future relationship with PNG.

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Uneven Connections »

A Partial History of the Mobile Phone in Papua New Guinea

Authored by: Robert J. Foster
Publication date: March 2024
In the first years of the 21st century, economic liberalisation began to transform telecommunications services throughout the Pacific Islands. Government regulators, corporate executives and everyday consumers hopefully imagined that opening mobile phone markets to competition would result in greater access, lower costs and accelerated development. Uneven Connections examines the ways in which liberalisation took hold in Papua New Guinea (PNG) when a unit of the Caribbean-based mobile network operator Digicel Group Ltd. seized the opportunity to compete with the state-sponsored incumbent. The book highlights how mobile phones entered the lives of urban and rural Papua New Guineans after Digicel’s arrival in 2007. In so doing, it describes a moral economy in which companies, consumers and state agents continually negotiate who owes what to whom. In what ways have these various actors invented and negotiated new forms of both freedom and constraint? Uneven Connections advances understanding of how a so-called digital revolution in PNG unfolded, resulting in outcomes that often confounded the expectations of policy makers and ordinary citizens alike. It assesses the extent to which some of the promises of this revolution have been redeemed and identifies the challenges faced by companies, consumers and state agents in establishing and experiencing novel forms of uneven connectivity. The book provides a short and selective history of mobile phones in PNG, ending with the sale of Digicel’s Pacific operations to the Australian company Telstra in 2022.

Grassroots Law in Papua New Guinea »

Edited by: Melissa Demian
Publication date: December 2023
The introduction of village courts in Papua New Guinea in 1975 was an ambitious experiment in providing semi-formal legal access to the country’s overwhelmingly rural population. Nearly 50 years later, the enthusiastic adoption of these courts has had a number of ramifications, some of them unanticipated. Arguably, the village courts have developed and are working exactly as they were supposed to do, adapted by local communities to modes and styles consistent with their own dispute management sensibilities. But with little in the way of state oversight or support, most village courts have become, of necessity, nearly autonomous. Village courts have also become the blueprint for other modes of dispute management. They overlap with other sources of authority, so the line between what does and does not constitute a ‘court’ is now indistinct in many parts of the country. Rather than casting this issue as a problem for legal development, the contributors to Grassroots Law in Papua New Guinea ask how, under conditions of state withdrawal, people seek to retain an understanding of law that holds out some promise of either keeping the attention of the state or reproducing the state’s authority.

Return to Volcano Town »

Reassessing the 1937–1943 Volcanic Eruptions at Rabaul

Publication date: October 2023
Wally Johnson and Neville Threlfall re-examine the explosive volcanic eruptions that in 1937–43 killed more than 500 people in the Rabaul area of East New Britain, Papua New Guinea. They reassess this disaster in light of the prodigious amount of new scientific and disaster-management work that has been undertaken there since about 1971, when strong tectonic earthquakes shook the area. Comparisons are made in particular with volcanic eruptions in 1994–2014, when half of Rabaul town was destroyed and then abandoned. A striking feature of historical eruptive periods at Rabaul is the near‑simultaneous activity at Vulcan and Tavurvur volcanoes, on either side of Rabaul Harbour. Such rare ‘twin’ eruptions are interpreted to be the result of a common magma reservoir beneath the harbour. This interpretation has implications for ongoing hazard and risk assessments and for volcano monitoring in the area.

Unsung Land, Aspiring Nation »

Journeys in Bougainville

Authored by: Gordon Peake
Publication date: December 2022
In 2016, Gordon Peake answers a job advertisement for a role with the government of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, a collection of islands on the eastern fringe of Papua New Guinea looking to strike out as a country of its own. In his day job he sees at first hand the challenges of trying to stand up new government systems. Away from the office he travels with former rebels, follows an anthropologist’s ghost and visits landmarks from the region’s conflict. In 2019, he witnesses joy and euphoria as the people of Bougainville vote in a referendum on their future. Out of these encounters emerges an unforgettable portrait of this potential nation-in-waiting. Blending narrative history, travelogue and personal reminiscences, Unsung Land, Aspiring Nation is an engaging memoir as well as an insightful meditation on the realities of nation-making and international development. ‘Heartfelt and honest. This book is an insightful read and a valuable addition to scholarship on Bougainville’s journey to peace.’ — Joseph Nobetau, former Chief Secretary to the Autonomous Bougainville Government ‘An excellent piece of engaged travel writing. With first-hand observation and curiosity, Gordon has produced a deeply informed, compelling and evocative account of war, survival and nation-building in what may become the world’s newest country.’ — Tom Bamforth, author of The Rising Tide: Among the Islands and Atolls of the Pacific Ocean Unsung Land, Aspiring Nation is also available as an audiobook.

Child-directed Speech in Qaqet »

A Language of East New Britain, Papua New Guinea

Authored by: Henrike Frye
Publication date: August 2022
Qaqet is a non-Austronesian language, spoken by about 15,000 people in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea. In the remote inland, children acquire Qaqet as their first language. Much of what we know about child‑directed speech (CDS) stems from children living in middle‑class, urban, industrialised contexts. This book combines evidence from different methods, showing that the features typical for speech to children in such contexts are also found in Qaqet CDS. Preliminary insights from naturalistic audio recordings suggest that Qaqet children are infrequently addressed directly. In interviews, Qaqet caregivers express the view that children ‘pick up’ the language on their own. Still, they have clear ideas about how to talk to children in a way that makes it easier for them to understand what is said. In order to compare adult- and child-directed speech in Qaqet, 20 retellings of a film have been analysed, half of them told to adults and half to children. The data show that talk directed to children differs from talk directed to adults for several features, among them utterance type, mean length of utterance, amount of hesitations and intonation. Despite this clear tendency, there seems to be a cut-off point of around 40 months of age for several of those features from which the talk directed to children becomes more like the talk directed to adults.

State and Society in Papua New Guinea, 2001–2021 »

Authored by: R.J. May
Publication date: August 2022
In a previous volume, State and Society in Papua New Guinea: The First Twenty-Five Years (2001, reprinted by ANU E Press in 2004), a collection of papers by the author published between 1971 and 2001 was put together to mark Papua New Guinea’s first 25 years as an independent state. This volume presents a collection of papers written between 2001 and 2021, which update the story of political and social development in Papua New Guinea in the first two decades of the twenty-first century. The chapters cover a range of topics, from an evaluation of proposals for political reform in the early 2000s, a review of the discussion of ‘failing states’ in the island Pacific and the shift to limited preferential voting in 2007, to a detailed account of political developments from the move against Sir Michael Somare in 2011 to the election of Prime Minister Marape and his performance to 2022. There are also chapters on language policy, external and internal security, religious fundamentalism and national identity, and the sustainability of economic growth.