||This project examines print cultures in contact zones of the Coral Sea region, including both Australia and the Melanesian Pacific, and the ways in which the production and circulate print media influence the formation of boundaries and connections between communities of this region in various terms, including culture, language and nation.
Part of this project is an examination of so-called "native newspapers" in the postwar period in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, including Papuan Times, published in English by graduates of the Kwato Extension Association, and Hari Dina (Today), published by the Hanuabada Social Club. Hanuabada and Kwato had each emerged as bridges between indigenous societies and white settlers, yet were mostly excluded from public politics because their members belonged to “native” cultures. These publications created new ways for Papuan people to participate in colonial politics by offering readers information and opinion on government regulations, economic policy, colonial race relations, and the cooperative movement.
Both Papuan Times and and Hari Dina were part of a dense and complex ecology of print and broadcast media in and outside the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. While each aspired to being independent media, they depended in part on material support from government sources, especially the Territory Department of Education, which encouraged indigenous literacy through various print publications. Stories were often sourced from official government channels, Australian newspapers, missionary periodicals, and ABC radio broadcasts carried on 9PA Port Moresby. Moreover, the editors formed a loose network with fellow indigenous journalists involved in the production of Pidgin English (Tok Pisin) Education Department newsletters published in the New Guinea mandated territory, exchanging stories with each other.
My preliminary analysis suggests that, rather than encompassing people in a new mass public, native newspapers circulated through a network of informal ties, and connected people in a variety of different kinds of literate communication. Rather than transforming people's relationships to public information, the papers co-opt and extend networks of gossip and rumor among a select, literate few. As a couterpublic in that sense, they do not oppose the colonial public as much as they attempt to renegotiate the terms of their recognition within it as elites and as brokers of future relations between Australians and Papuan villagers.