Words and Representations – Gulf District, Kerema Station, Volume 15, 1936-1937

While reading through my volume closely, I made note of all main ideas, frequently repeated words or phrases, and anything else that seemed interesting or otherwise notable. I was then able to select subject terms and craft my aboutness statement using those notes. After careful consideration, my chosen subject terms are as follows:

Inspections; Court for Native Matters; Census; Plantations; Payments; Housing; Fences; Taxes; Politics; Weather; Erosion; Gardens; Disease; River conditions; Investigations; Canoes; Whaleboats; Swamps; Rituals and customs; Religion; Nutrition; Land Surveys; Trade; Indigenous vocabulary.

Done as an in-class activity, I took significantly less time to read Scott’s entire volume. Skimming through the reports was definitely less time-consuming, but I was still able to gain a good sense of their contents. The reports were very similar to my assigned reports because the two volumes cover the same district about one year apart. The following terms were selected from Scott’s volume:

police camp; plantation; fences; health; disease; patrol instructions; canoes; sago; river conditions; whaleboat; rest house; land; inspections; taxes; census; court for native matters; rituals; investigation; coconuts; erosion; patrol instructions; barracks; gardens; religion; rituals; weather; infrastructure; sorcery

Although my process for finding the terms was different between the two volumes, the results were very similar. I think the overall consistency resulted from my having already chosen specific terms for my assigned reports. I was also able to be more decisive about word choice. For example, I originally struggled with deciding whether or not I would use distinct subject terms for the different types of investigations referred to in my reports. Rather than having separate categories for land, plantation, or native labor inspections, I decided to just use “inspections,” a decision that carried over to my quick analysis of Scott’s report.

My hope is that the subject terms I have used will make the Papua New Guinea patrol reports easier to use by any audience. For example, I originally had “puripuri” listed as a term for Scott’s report. Because someone who knew little about PNG may not know that term specifically, I used “sorcery” instead. I would never want to use words or phrases that would be offensive or insensitive to any particular audience, but I did use “court for native matters” as a subject term. I made this decision due to the widespread use of the acronym “C.N.M.” in the reports themselves, but I must admit that I am now questioning this choice. Is the usage of “native” appropriate in this context due to the consistency with the source material’s verbiage, or is it actually problematic? I did consider using “legal issues/matters” but did not feel that it captured the fact that foreign patrol officers were heavily involved in local legal issues.

PNG Patrol Report: Gulf District, Kerema, 1936-1937

4 Comments


  1. Hi Lea, you raise an interesting point about C.N.M. Why do you think native is an inaccurate representation? What is lost in the broader term “legal matters”? For your terms, you also have quite a long list. They provide really specific details that would be helpful to someone reading the reports; however, would some broader categories be more helpful? Such as agriculture (to incorporate tobacco, coconuts, gardens, plantations, and sago)? Also, how are inspections and investigations different? What do you mean by contest? I am assuming argument or tension, but could it be a competition? Just curious how you came to these specific choices.

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  2. I’m interested in the word puri puri. I didn’t even know what that was until I google searched it. Even then there was many definition including witchcraft. So I became intrigued that you decided to use the word sorcery. Those two words are not necessarily the same. Sorcery is the term used for those practicing the dark arts of magic whereas witchcraft has negative implications on those who practice Wicca or other forms of magic. It’s very similar to the negative implications put on Santeria by Judeo-Christian religions. So I wonder if classifying puri puri under religion or religious rituals should be considered to take away the Christian bias of anything that may be considered dark or evil because it does not follow Christian fundamentals.

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    1. In PNG news, witchcraft and sorcery are used as anglicized versions, so both could be appropriate. This is a great example of when an indigenous perspective would help us to understand which words to use. Another possibility would be to generalize as [native] religious practices. Sorcery and witchcraft killings are still frequent in PNG and often come up in the news.

      Here is a link to a JSTOR article discussing this https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt169wd7b.17?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

      Post Courier is one of the main PNG newspapers. Here is a link to sorcery killings https://postcourier.com.pg/sorcery-causing-brutal-killings/

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  3. Thanks for your input Leah! Yes, My patrol reports mentioned drying machines used in copra production. I originally thought using very specific the key term was a good idea, but I now see your point and I agree that I should adjust my key words. I think you did a great job with the key terms that you ended up using. I also appreciate your decision to use words that are not offensive

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