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Edited by Sjoerd R. Jaarsma

Describing Papua New Guinea, 1945-1975
Interviews on the History of Ethnographic Description (Transcripts)

With few exceptions, the thirty-eight people interviewed were anthropologists, linguists, or geographers, working in an academic environment. Most did their initial (usually post-graduate) research in PNG in the years between 1945 and 1975 – the last decades of Australian colonial rule over the area. In many cases, revisits were made to the areas studied or to other locations in PNG. The interviewees came from Europe, Australia, and Northern America. Twenty-nine of these interviews are reproduced here verbatim.*

Focus of the interviews
While each individual interview deals with the fieldwork of the person or persons interviewed, the overall focus was the circumstances of social scientific research – particularly anthropological research – in PNG. Similarly, from an historical perspective the final decades of colonialism and the subsequent decolonization process of the area were recurring issues in nearly all of the interviews. A third focus of the interviews was the indigenous reaction both to the fact of being researched and to the changing times in which the research subjects lived.

Information from the interviews
Various aspects of the social setting surface throughout the various interviews. The fact that the Australians were working to develop PNG and later on “preparing” it for independence set the stage for part of the research effort. Infrastructure, politics, education, the indigenous reaction to development, all these were prime subjects for research.

Yet, “exploring the unknown” was very real for New Guinea with its extreme and largely uncharted variety of languages and cultures. This happened not just by personal choice, but also in the context of various research programs and projects. Many of the researchers were also at some stage or other involved in looking at the 1964 and 1968 elections in PNG. The choice of research locations in a sense follows the quest for the unknown. All but a few of the people interviewed picked a research location not previously visited or studied. Some even specifically sought to go to the very edges of administrative and missionary influence. In that respect PNG in the 1950s through 1970s still provided that curious challenge: to be the first in the field, meeting people “only minimally affected” by Western culture.

If there ever was such a thing as an ethnographic laboratory where cultures could be studied under “controlled conditions” PNG came very close to it. Researchers looked to minimize outside influences by examining people at the edges of the controlled areas or newly opened-up areas. Whether this worked or not, or even whether it was a sensible approach, will always remain a matter of judgment.

* Interviewer/editor: Sjoerd R. Jaarsma. The interviews were conducted as part of a research project financed by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, Foundation for Economic, Sociocultural, and Geographical Sciences (ref. 510-76-504). The texts were edited for readability and – where necessary – for the correctness of their content. In all cases, however, corrections were kept to a minimum.

Various Authors & Editors

Memories van Overgave: New Guinea

Retrospective reports by Dutch civil servants in Indonesia, these briefings contain important source materials for those who research local, social, political and economic history of Indonesia. The Memories were used to brief newly appointed officials about their assigned administrative area. They cover the entire Indonesian Archipelago.
IDC Publishers has now selected the Memories pertaining to (Netherlands) New Guinea. This includes reports up to the 1950s and 1960s. The documents provide details of the period in which Dutch authorities attempted to keep New Guinea independent from Indonesia, which had been granted sovereignty in 1949.

Various Authors & Editors

Missionary Archives - Pacific
Australasia

The importance of missionary archives as a primary source continues to grow. IDC Publishers has now selected from a total of nine large missionary archives on microfiche, all materials related to missionary activities in the Pacific. They derive from nine large missionary archives, each item contains a reference to the issuing society or organization. The documents provide details on eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century missionary endeavours of Western Protestant in the Pacific.

This collection is also included in the Missionary Archives - Pacific collection.

Various Authors & Editors

Missionary Archives - Pacific
Pacific General

The importance of missionary archives as a primary source continues to grow. IDC Publishers has now selected from a total of nine large missionary archives on microfiche, all materials related to missionary activities in the Pacific. They derive from nine large missionary archives, each item contains a reference to the issuing society or organization. The documents provide details on eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century missionary endeavours of Western Protestant in the Pacific.

This collection is also included in the Missionary Archives - Pacific collection.

Various Authors & Editors

Missionary Archives - Pacific
South Seas (South Pacific)

The importance of missionary archives as a primary source continues to grow. IDC Publishers has now selected from a total of nine large missionary archives on microfiche, all materials related to missionary activities in the Pacific. They derive from nine large missionary archives, each item contains a reference to the issuing society or organization. The documents provide details on eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century missionary endeavours of Western Protestant in the Pacific.

This collection is also included in the Missionary Archives - Pacific collection.

Various Authors & Editors

Statistical Reports and Development Plans: The Pacific

Filmed in close cooperation with the Joint Bank Fund Library in Washington, D.C., the items in this catalogue present a selection from the series:
• National Statistical Reports
• National Development Plans
• Documents on Education Development
• Rural and Regional Development.
It offers, in many cases, remarkable runs of data that span several years of socio-economic planning and performance.

Various Authors & Editors

Travelogues: The Pacific

Travelogues feature among the mostly studied primary and secondary sources in researching contacts and interactions between Western travellers and indigenous societies. In many cases, they provide unique insights into these encounters, and often they represent the only windows for studying approaches to and consequences of such intercultural meetings.
Inevitably skewed toward the culture of Western travellers, travelogues often contain important observations and data on native societies. Since many of such communities were subsequently deeply altered, travel reports are highly coveted for their potential to contribute to reconstructing the types and characteristics of aboriginal communities.
IDC Publishers has now selected travel reports by missionaries and others who travelled the Pacific in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.