Working Session: Rethinking Decolonization in Papua New Guinea
Organizers: Courtney Handman and Alex Golub
Although the era of decolonization is often described as a story of rising national consciousness leading to successful struggles for independence, these stories offer at best partial accounts of how decolonization proceeded in many cases. In Papua New Guinea, where people across a wide sociological spectrum express significant nostalgia for colonialism, decolonization is often described as the moment when things took a turn for the worse. Nor is this colonial nostalgia just a retrospective evaluation of the past. While there were some significant demands for independence in the later 1960s, the initial impetus for decolonization came from the United Nations. How can we use new evidence based on oral histories and archival work to tell the story of the independence and decolonization eras without relying on more common narratives of local struggle for self- determination that frame independence movements in African and Asian contexts in the mid 20th century? In this panel we examine decolonization as a moment in which communicative networks undergo major transformations, ones that move well beyond the more expected change from top-down colonial dictats to Andersonian horizontal publics. In some cases, decolonization became the context for more pronounced provincial-level and ethnic-level networks that almost entirely excluded national concerns. In others, decolonization produced stronger connections between the former colonial power and specific regions of Papua New Guinea that became sites of important tourist interest. In still others, decolonization initiated international bureaucratic oversight. Papers in the panel address decolonization in Papua New Guinea as an early moment in the development of new communicative networks that downplay, deny, or denigrate the national.
For more information, please contact Courtney Handman <firstname.lastname@example.org> and Alex Golub <email@example.com>