Reflecting on the overall CAT124 course, I’ve recognized that several of my personal biases while heading into the course have largely disintegrated or have morphed into a separate understanding of Papua New Guinea, and its colonial and de-colonial history. For instance, being initially naïve to the culture and heritage of Papua New Guinea, I proceeded into the course with only general knowledge that I possessed regarding Hawaiian culture and its history, and the much larger scale of colonialization around the world. The stigma wrapped around colonial powers and the often-repeated heinous acts of violence while essentially taking over territory belonging to others is not unfounded. Thus, I vaguely viewed the process as white Westerners conquering foreign lands (which belonged to a generally primitive indigenous society), for the purpose of spreading influence, capitalizing on natural resources, and generating a slave labor force to accomplish all this. Which was seemingly echoed by McPherson, noting foreigners were initially there to exploit resources and use natives as workers (McPherson 2001). These encompassing concepts, however, was my “understanding” which eventually changed or disintegrated—as far, as the people, process, purpose, and procurement of objective truths and maintenance of unbiased research. Although, this is not to say that the Australians (and those before them) were correct and just in doing so. There remains a disservice to the cultural norms and sensitivities regarding the Native PNG population and their recorded historical past—of which, includes two-sided documentation/representation of the history and response drawn by the Papua New Guineans.
As Winston Churchill once said: “History is written by the victors,” and further in history, Napoleon offered: “What is history, but a fable agreed upon?” And here is where we insert the de-colonial process. The control of knowledge may have once rested in the hands of the colonial matrix of power, but it’s the de-colonial process which must unravel and delink many of the subjective biases and partialities of such accounts (Mignolo 2011). As for the Patrol Report volume I was assigned, it was my honest attempt to continuously gauge and render quality checks on my own personal biases and to seek only objective truths which deferentially represents both sides in a culturally aware and semantically sensitive manor. Additionally, as explained by Taylor and Joudrey, the actual subject analysis itself possess a rather precautious task, in which the text may often have several multifaceted themes and not just one single aboutness subject. In my volume, I was, of course, scanning for information that related to the route and task of the patrol, but I was also engaging with the text in order to gain a deeper and more complex understanding of the Native people and their culture, customs, and values. I found it challenging to read between the lines, so to speak, as to perhaps locate embedded humor or evoked emotions which would be easily understood through video or audio, but is escaped through text.
I managed to enhance my base of knowledge and sharpen my analysis by engaging with the additional reading’s and videos posted throughout the course. The initial film, “First Contact”, gave me valuable insight as to how the natives reacted to seeing and conversing with the first white men on the island. It was informative yet also slightly humorous to see and hear what exactly the natives believed as to who they were, where they were from, and why they were there. Furthermore, it was important for me to view the film because it allowed me to visualize the “progression” of PNG as it relates to interacting with foreigners and advancing their economy and infrastructure.
My particular volume, which was in the mid 1930’s, was not very exciting—for lack of a better word, being that it was after World War II yet before World War II. The world at large was relatively peaceful, and this gave PNG and the Australians time to build and grow, but made the reports rather repetitive. Ultimately, I chose to include the following subjects for my key terms:
Inspections; Infrastructure; Agriculture; Land; Court; Petty Sessions; Native Matters; Canoe; Census; Rest House; Police Camp; Government; Trade; Health; Disease; Family Bonus; Crime; Culture; Sorcery; Tax Affairs.
Moreover, the following paragraph was my aboutness interpretation for the entirety of the volume:
This volume contained long patrols that focused on inspections of coconut and rubber plantations, gold dredging operations, villages, roads, fences, and general infrastructure. Patrol Officers took regular census and maintained precise knowledge of men, women, children, infants, marriage, death, and general health and disease information. Minute information regarding family bonus, wages, payments (including other than money payments), building and bridge construction, carriers employed, patrols and police taken on patrol, canoe and boat transportation matters all were included throughout the volume. Lastly, regular correspondence was kept between government/administration and the Patrol Officers on the patrols, which discussed legal, law, and court matters for natives.
The intent and outcome of the mentioned sections above, was my attempt at maintaining a birds-eye-view of the volume while also being clear, concise, and objective. A sentiment which was repeated by the other classmates in CAT124A. I firmly believe that the patrol reports are a part of history for Papua New Guinea. But, a “part” is how I see them now. The importance of archiving, collecting, and analyzing all parts of a place or peoples history. I am thankful to have educated myself further through teachings by Jane Zhang and Walter Mignolo, but I am ultimately most grateful for the lessons I’ve acquired through Cristela and Rachel. So, thank you!
Jane Zhang (2012) Archival Representation in the Digital Age, Journal of Archival Organization, 10:1, 45-68
McPherson, Naomi M. “Wanted: Young Man Must Like Adventure: Ian McCallum Mack, Patrol Officer” In Colonial New Guinea: Anthropological Perspectives. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001, pg 82-110.
Mignolo, Walter 2011: The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options. Durham: Duke UP.
Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. 2012. Decolonizing methodologies: research and indigenous peoples. London: Zed. Intro (pages 1-9 required, 9-19 recommended) & Chapter 2 (pages 44-47 required, 47-60 recommended)
Taylor, A. G. & Joudrey, D. N. (2009). The organization of information. Westport, Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited. (pg 437-473).
Video “First Contact”
Course Lecture, and Patrol Report Volume 14: Gulf District, Kerema