Making History Module Essay by: Emma Johnson

Colonial records occupy a contentious space in historiographical thought and have inspired extensive theory surrounding their nuanced complexities and the many ways in which they can be read. The patrol reports produced by Australian patrol officers during their penetration and expansion of government influence and control in Papua New Guinea [PNG] has recently stoked this discussion, as Peter Dwyer and Monica Minnegal contend that these records, ‘written by the patrol officers themselves … reveal much about both the colonial ‘gaze’, in all its complexity, and the work entailed in rendering both land and people legible to the colonial state.’[1] This essay will analyse J.M. Clancy’s patrol report of July/August 1950, under Dwyer and Minnegal’s framework, to investigate the nature of the relationships between colonial Australian administration and local Papuans, as well as the way in which the report itself influences this information. This will be done by reading the patrol report with and against the grain to explore the tension between administrative and Indigenous co-operation and local anxiety, a colonial “common sense” that demarks Papuans as nation building resources, and how historical meaning is complicated, altered and obscured in the mistranslation that inherently influences this form of documentation.

A tension between administrative and Indigenous harmony and local anxiety pervades this report, as Clancy summarises that the ‘relations between the Government and local natives are, for the most part, excellent … while everybody is friendly, it is apparent that the people are still rather nervous and wary.’[2] Clancy’s report documents census-taking, medical surveying and the expansion of government influence in the Middle Mubi area of the Lake Kutubu District. There is much historical evidence that suggests that encounters between patrol officers and Indigenous people could, and were expected by Australian administration to be peaceful, as the General Order Armed Constabulary No. 1 of 1909 espoused the idea of “peaceful penetration”, declaring that ‘officers may take it that they will not be justified in opening fire, by way of self-defence, unless they have been actually attacked.’[3] Superficially, Clancy’s report echoes a history of such peaceful encounters, as not only do locals appear to co-operate with the patrol party, they also seem to trust them. This is perhaps most striking in Clancy’s note that Mr E.M.A Bell, medical officer, ‘gave injections to two men, who were suffering from yaws, they volunteered’; implying a degree of trust not only in Western medicine, but in those who administered it.[4] Moreover, Clancy’s report illustrates Papuan support of government influence. Clancy’s note that ‘a tract of land between Eragahugu and Pimaga was offered to the Government on the condition that a patrol post be established there’ demonstrates a local knowledge of and investment in Western advancement and desire for a proximity to Australian administration.[5] Thiswillingness to offer land insinuates that Australian administration was considered positively by local people, as the land itself ‘extends the influence of the administration; it is a means by which the government reaches the people; [and] it is a symbol of administrative authority.’[6] Despite this, Clancy’s descriptions of co-operation and peace are undermined by frequent reports of local anxiety and absence during census-taking. In a particularly striking example, Clancy illustrates the anxiety of the Harabuio people who bore evidence of a recent fight with another clan, describing them as ‘very nervous and … inclined to bolt if anything unusual occurred.’[7] Clancy offers no further commentary on the behaviour of these villagers but the punitive history of Lake Kutubu assists in contextualising this nervousness. Up until 1950, much of the patrolling and government influence under the guidance of patrol officer Ivan Champion were ‘primarily for the purposes of suppressing warfare’ between clans and saw the establishment of a police camp at Kutubu.[8] After a violent confrontation between Champion’s armed party and Harabuyo men in 1939, triggered by unrest and killings in Harabuyo, the perceived culprits were arrested and brought to Kutubu station as prisoners. As such, a fear of punishment could explain some of the local anxiety Clancy documented. Consequently, this tension between peace and anxiety calls into question the motives behind local co-operation, as the memory of Kutubu’s punitive history may have ‘been responsible for further resistance or fear of arrests, and for acceptance of … government intervention.’[9] This problematises Clancy’s report of authentically peaceful relations and questions the extent to which these depictions of peace have been romanticised and misinterpreted under the colonial gaze.

As a primary object of this patrol, the information garnered from the census, as well as the parameters of and methods behind census-taking, is of key importance. This census defines villages of the Middle Mubi region and its people through quantifiable demographics of age, sex, and the ability to work and bear children.[10] As highlighted by P. Brown, ‘the census makes people quantifiable; births and deaths are recorded … and opportunities for labor recruitment are evaluated.’[11] As well as providing valuable historic data on Papuan demographics, this census reveals the transparency of colonial attitudes and psychologies toward and about Papuan people when read with the grain. Following what appears to be a prescriptive proforma issued by District Services and Native Affairs [DSNA], the village register Clancy completed reveals how the Indigenous populations of the various villages in the Mubi region are circumscribed, demarked and delineated by their ability to contribute to nation building. The strict categories that define and guide the census reveal a colonial common sense that ‘the indigenous people were a resource as laborers’ and a means of population growth as the established demographics are translated to labour potential and ability to reproduce in the penultimate category.[12] In this way, colonial records can be viewed as a means of establishing and exhibiting power and exerting control on Indigenous people and their place in colonial consciousness, as colonial states increasingly ‘took control by defining and classifying space … by counting and classifying their populations.’[13] When analysing the census data alone, a subtle disregard for Indigenous wellbeing emerges in the relationship between older demographics and their qualification as potential labour. This particular data suggests that the life expectancy of Indigenous people in the Middle Mubi region rarely exceeds forty-five; classifying those nearing this age as approaching their end of life. Despite this, many of these older individuals were classified as fit for potential labour. Furthermore, the absence of a “cause of death” category in the census signifies an administrative disinterest in Indigenous wellbeing, preferring a quantifiable, rather than three-dimensional, Indigenous existence. Interestingly, Clancy engages in considerable anthropological discussion in his written report on the census, recording his observations on cultural and social politics surrounding the treatment of women, particularly in their relationship to men. This reveals an interesting dialogue between the statistical treatment of women as potential vessels at an administrative level through the DSNA’s village register, and women as functioning and active members of society with an array of complex social connections through Clancy’s personal fascination with cultural and gendered politics, a topic that will be returned to. This tension between administrative and personal attitudes within the colonial jurisdiction is further highlighted by the absence of villager’s names in the preserved report, despite Clancy’s statement that ‘this is the first census in which names have been recorded.’[14] S. Smith, Acting District Officer, offers minimal clarity behind this, reporting that Clancy’s work was complicated by ‘the people’s unfamiliarity with census requirements, their numerous names and “name avoidances.”’[15] This does not, however, explain the absence of the names Clancy claims to have recorded. Whilst the precise reason for the absence of this record remains unknown, it sheds light on Ann Storer’s suggestion that colonial documents like this patrol report ‘serve less as stories for a colonial history than as active, generative substances with histories, as documents with itineraries of their own.’[16] Through its omission, accidental or deliberate, the Indigenous population of the Middle Mubi region remain predominantly nameless, existing only within colonial parameters.

This report unwittingly offers a commentary on the extent to which patrol officers could truly capture the complexities of Indigenous cultural, social and spiritual politics. Through Clancy’s admission that he was predominantly unfamiliar with the local languages, mentioning that there were only a ‘few words of the language that I knew’[17], together with Smith’s reflection that the patrol was complicated by ‘poor interpretation’[18]; this report is almost self-reflexive in the ambiguities that shroud colonial records. As highlighted by Inga Clendinnen, ‘any investigation into early cultural encounters is bedevilled by uncertainties as to the adequacy of communication.’[19] As a result, Clendinnen suggests, we are left with ‘join-the-dots narratives plotted in terms of British expectations of both themselves and the ‘natives.’’[20] Despite there being ample evidence that Clancy’s is not the first colonial-Indigenous encounter in this region, with Mubi Valley being penetrated by Australian patrol officers as early as 1910[21], these elements of mistranslation still appear to plague the report. For example, Clancy’s preoccupation with women as wives and mothers, evident in his report on the perceived cultural and familial politics surrounding the treatment of women and their role in society, exposes the contemporary colonial attitude that ‘led to the isolation of women from mainstream development because continued emphasis was placed on a Western model of women’s domestic roles that ignored the critical contribution native women made to production.’[22] In addition to the patriarchal, domestic and familial framework in which Clancy conducts his discussion of women, he expressed shock at behaviour that appeared at odds with Western conceptualisations of gender roles as he notes ‘most of the women were present but the majority of the men were hiding in the bush where they had fled that morning, leaving their wives behind!’[23] Clancy’s exclamation effectively frames the observation of the dynamic between Indigenous men and women within and against Western models of gender. The shock he expresses creates new meaning as, instead of existing as an impartial record, it is presented as a reversal of, and thus contingent upon, Western ideology. Further research conducted about the role of Highland women highlights the shift in meaning created under the colonial gaze as ‘women’s major roles were in subsistence production in sweet potato horticulture, pig husbandry, household maintenance and child-care. Most of women’s activities were performed alone.’[24] Considered in this light, together with the frequent report of absences at census-taking due to hunting season[25] – a traditionally male activity – it does not appear abnormal that women were found unaccompanied by their male counterpart. The influence of the colonial gaze is seen elsewhere in relation to Indigenous gender politics, as Clancy attributes the cause of an inter-clan dispute to an affair brought about by a woman’s ‘loose moral conduct.’[26] Research on cultural politics and ideology surrounding sexuality and warfare has revealed that ‘historically, traditional sexuality was directly associated with the social arrangements and entailments of warfare and warriorhood training … [including] the cultural fantasy that warriors could steal women as brides and use sexual assault and rape as tools of war outside of the security circle.’[27] This is not to suggest that the “affair” was an unequivocal outcome of cultural ideology, but rather to highlight the potential meaning that can be lost when the subjects of report are twice removed from the story; once through translation by an interpreter that risks inherent miscommunication and again by the colonial interpretation and understanding of the information.

Thus, it becomes apparent that colonial reports such as these are both enlightening and complex; often revealing more than what may be intended. Through reading Clancy’s patrol report with and against the grain, this essay has explored the nature of the attitudes towards and relationships between Australian colonial administration and local Papuans. Guided by Dwyer and Minnegal’s framework, this essay has also investigated how the relevant information was informed and influenced by the colonial gaze; revealing a colonial-Papuan relationship that, whilst predominantly peaceful, was riddled with anxiety and construed by a colonial gaze.

Bibliography

Anas, M., ‘The highlands of australian new guinea’, The geographical review, vol. 50. no. 4, 1960, pp 467- 490, JSTOR [online database], accessed 3 Oct. 2020.

Ballard, C. ‘Explorers and co. in interior new guinea’, in T. Shellam, M. Nugent, S. Konishi & A. Cadzow (eds.), Brokers and boundaries: Colonial exploration in Indigenous territory, 2016, pp. 185 – 212, JSTOR [online database], accessed 3 Oct. 2020.

Brown, P.  ‘Colonial new guinea: the historical context’, in N. McPherson (ed.),  Colonial new guinea, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, 2001, pp. 15 – 26.

Clancy, J.M., Lake Kutubu Patrol no. 1 of 1950/1951, 17Jul. – 2 Aug. 1950, National Archives and Public Records Services of Papua New Guinea, Patrol Reports, Southern Highlands District, Lake Kutubu Station, 1950 – 1951, vol. 2, pp. 1 – 36, <https://library.ucsd.edu/dc/object/bb37561172>, accessed 15 Sep. 2020.

Clendinnen, I. ‘Spearing the governor’, Australian historical studies, vol. 33. no. 118, 2002, p. 159.

Cohn, B.S., ‘Introduction’, Colonialism and its forms of knowledge: the british in india, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1996, pp. 3 – 15.

Dickerson-Putman, J., ‘Women, development and stratification in the eastern highland provinces of papua and new guinea’, Urban anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development, vol. 23, no. 1, 1994, pp. 13 -38, JSTOR [online database], accessed 1 Oct. 2020.

Dwyer, P.  & Minnegal, M. ‘On reading patrol reports – 1: south of the blucher range’, The journal of pacific history, inc., vol. 55, no. 1, 2019, pp. 115 – 125, Taylor and Francis [online database], accessed 30 Sep. 2020.

 Herdt, G. ‘Intimate Consumption and New Sexual Subjects Among the Sambia of Papua New Guinea’, Oceania, vol. 89, no. 1, 2019, pp. 36 – 67, Humanities Source [online database], accessed 1 Oct. 2020.

Kituai, A.B. ‘The role of the patrol officer in papua new guinea’, My gun, my brother: the world of papua new guinea colonial police, 1920 – 1960, University of Hawaii Press, 1998, pp. 19 -41, JSTOR [online database], accessed 30 Sep 2020.

Sinclair, J., ‘The beginnings’, Middle kingdom: a colonial history of the highlands of papua new guinea, Crawford House Publishing, pp. 3 – 12.

Stephen, M., ‘An honourable man: mekeo views of the village constable’, The journal of pacific history, vol. 14, no. 2, 1979, pp. 85-99, JSTOR [online database], accssed 3 Oct. 2020.

 Storer, A.,  Along the archival grain: epistemic anxieties and colonial common sense, Princeton University Press, 2008, ProQuest Ebook Central [online database], accessed 2 Oct. 2020.

Weiner, J.F., The mythological dimension of foi sociality, University of California Press, 1988, p. 28, UC Press E-Books [online database], accessed 3 Oct. 2020.

Part B: Summary

Word count: 213

This patrol report, conducted by patrol officer J.M. Clancy, explores numerous villages from Hegeso to Tomesi in the “Middle Mubi River” area in the Lake Kutubu district, nestled in the Southern Highlands Province. This patrol spanned from the seventeenth of July to the second of August 1950. Clancy was accompanied by two Europeans and sixteen locals and conducted the entire patrol with the use of canoes. Medical officer E.M.A. Bell also accompanied the party. The primary objectives of the patrol were census-taking, medical surveying and furthering government influence. The census data provides a snapshot of village demographics according to age, sex, labour potential and ability to bear child as well as recording recent deaths and births whilst Clancy’s diary and summative report provides dimension and context to this data and the people it quantifies. Clancy reports the completion of a Rest House built by locals and discusses the local behaviour and willingness to comply with census-taking. These are generally described as peaceful and co-operative, if at times anxious, encounters. Despite the absence of anthropological objective driving the patrol, Clancy documents extensive observations on social and cultural village politics, particularly surrounding familial and domestic relations and the treatment of women and marriage.

Key words: census; health; infrastructure; government influence; women; cultural and social politics.


[1] P. Dwyer & M. Minnegal, ‘On reading patrol reports – 1: south of the blucher range’, The journal of pacific history, inc., vol. 55, no. 1, 2019, p. 116, Taylor and Francis [online database], accessed 30 Sep. 2020.

[2] J. M. Clancy, Lake Kutubu Patrol no. 1 of 1950/1951, 17Jul. – 2 Aug. 1950, National Archives and Public Records Services of Papua New Guinea, Patrol Reports, Southern Highlands District, Lake Kutubu Station, 1950 – 1951, vol. 2, p. 15 https://library.ucsd.edu/dc/object/bb37561172 , accessed 15 Sep. 2020.

[3]J. Sinclair, ‘The beginnings’, Middle kingdom: a colonial history of the highlands of papua new guinea, Crawford House Publishing, 2016, p. 7.

[4] Clancy, Lake kutubu patrol, p. 10.

[5] Clancy, Lake kutubu patrol, p. 18.

[6] M. Anas, ‘The highlands of australian new guinea’, The geographical review, vol. 50. no. 4, 1960, p. 481, JSTOR [online database], accessed 3 Oct. 2020.

[7]Clancy, Lake kutubu patrol, p. 9.

[8] J.F. Weiner, The mythological dimension of foi sociality, University of California Press, 1988, p. 28, UC Press E-Books [online database], accessed 3 Oct. 2020.

[9] P. Brown, ‘Colonial new guinea: the historical context’, in N. McPherson (ed.),  Colonial new guinea, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, 2001, p. 21.

[10] Clancy, Lake kutubu patrol, p. 21.

[11] P. Brown, ‘Colonial new guinea: the historical context’, in N. McPherson (ed.),  Colonial new guinea, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, 2001, p. 23.

[12] Clancy, Lake kutubu patrol, p. 21.

[13] B.S. Cohn, ‘Introduction’, Colonialism and its forms of knowledge: the british in india, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1996, p. 3.

[14] Clancy, Lake kutubu patrol, p. 18.

[15] Clancy, Lake kutubu patrol, p. 33.

[16] A. Storer, Along the archival grain: epistemic anxieties and colonial common sense, Princeton University Press, 2008, p. 14, ProQuest Ebook Central [online database], accessed 2 Oct. 2020.

[17] Clancy, Lake kutubu patrol, p. 20.

[18] Clancy, Lake kutubu patrol, p. 33.

[19] I. Clendinnen, ‘Spearing the governor’, Australian historical studies, vol. 33. no. 118, 2002, p. 159.

[20] Clendinnen, ‘Spearing the governor’, p. 158.

[21] Weiner, The mythological dimension of foi sociality, p. 26.

[22] J. Dickerson-Putman, ‘Women, development and stratification in the eastern highland provinces of papua and new guinea’, Urban anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development, vol. 23, no. 1, 1994, p. 19, JSTOR [online database], accessed 1 Oct. 2020.

[23]Clancy, Lake kutubu patrol, p. 10.

[24] Dickerson-Putman, ‘Women, development and stratification in the eastern highland provinces of papua and new guinea’, p. 22.

[25] Clancy, Lake kutubu patrol, p. 13.

[26] Clancy, Lake kutubu report,  p. 10.

[27] G. Herdt, ‘Intimate Consumption and New Sexual Subjects Among the Sambia of Papua New Guinea’, Oceania, vol. 89, no. 1, 2019, p. 38, Humanities Source [online database], accessed 1 Oct. 2020.

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