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Imagining the Other

Imagining the Other: The Representation of the Papua New Guinean Subject

Copyright Date: 2007
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  • Book Info
    Imagining the Other
    Book Description:

    Much has been written about Papua New Guinea over the last century and too often in ways that legitimated or served colonial interests through highly pejorative and racist descriptions of Papua New Guineans. Paying special attention to early travel literature, works of fiction, and colonial reports, laws, and legislation, Regis Tove Stella reveals the complex and persistent network of discursive strategies deployed to subjugate the land and its people.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6292-3
    Subjects: Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    Edward Said, in his seminal workOrientalism(1978), maintained that all representations are in some sense misrepresentations:

    the real issue is whether indeed there can be a true representation of anything, or whether any and all representations, because they are representations, are embedded first in the language and then in the culture, institutions, and political ambience of the representer. If the latter alternative is the correct one (as I believe it is), then we must be prepared to accept the fact that a representation iseo ipsoimplicated, intertwined, embedded, interwoven with a great many other things besides the “truth,”...

  6. 1 Representation and Indigenous Subjectivity
    (pp. 12-28)

    This chapter examines issues of representation and the construction of indigenous subjectivity in colonial discourse. The struggle over the representation of person and place that has occurred in the erasure and reinscription of the Papua New Guinean subject and landscape serves as a model for the struggle over colonialist representation in general. The question of indigenous subjectivity is examined here through a consideration of some early “fraudulent texts” about Papua New Guinea. These texts are particularly useful for demonstrating the power of discourse and its ramifications in strategies of social control.

    Any discussion dealing with colonial discourse must take into...

  7. 2 Locating the Subject: The Indigenous Construction of Place
    (pp. 29-48)

    For indigenous people the representation of place is essentially a discourse of landownership. The definition of the term “landownership” for Papua New Guineans must encompass the complexity of their relationship with their natural and social environment. In the understanding of indigenous people, “land” and “place” cannot be separated. Land/place is regarded as an extension of the indigenous self and an integral component of the indigenous identity—a sense of belonging through which identity itself is constructed. Land/place is the center of indigenous constructions of social histories, of personal and interpersonal experiences. So in addition to ownership of place as such,...

  8. 3 Colonizing Location: Representing Colonial Space
    (pp. 49-88)

    This chapter discusses European representation of colonial Papua New Guinea space. It argues that imperial engagement with Papua New Guinean society is, on one significant level, a struggle over the representation of place. The previous discussion of indigenous representations of place provides us with a model for the operation of colonial representation in general. For in nearly all cases, indigenous representations are erased and overwritten by a dominant colonial representation. In his influential thesis about how naming functions in turning aboriginal space into colonial place in Australia, Paul Carter described the erasure of indigenous constructions of place and the imposition...

  9. 4 Colonial Representation and Legal Discourse
    (pp. 89-99)

    This chapter discusses how Papua New Guineans have been depicted in colonial legal discourse. While colonialism deploys numerous representational strategies, legal discourse was crucial in Papua New Guinea in geographically and socially segregating the races. An examination of some of the laws and regulations instituted under colonial rule demonstrates how a politically and socially divided society, with its prejudices, discriminatory practices, and racialist attitudes, was established and maintained. Specific laws and regulations represented Papua New Guineans as inherently inferior, requiring the guidance of Europeans. At the same time, such laws sought to legitimize colonialism’s definition of indigenous people as childlike...

  10. 5 The Subject as Child
    (pp. 100-123)

    The strategy of infantilization is common in colonial discourse and is associated closely with the concept of the primitive and the subject status of the races of empire. Through these representations and associated tropes such as the uneducable native and “fuzzy wuzzy angel,” colonial authority as “parent,” “teacher,” and “ruler” is maintained. Descriptions such as “bush kanaka,” “manki masta,” “houseboy,” or simply “boy,” which may seem fairly benign, have operated to render Papua New Guineans inferior and subservient. The child is always a mirror image of the savage, and colonial discourse has always constructed indigenes as both savages and children...

  11. 6 The Subject as Savage
    (pp. 124-139)

    This chapter discusses the representation of the Papua New Guinean as savage. Besides interrelating with the trope of the PNG subject as child (the focus of chapter 5), the savage trope involves notions of primitivity and debasement. As Gail Ching-Liang Low asserted: “The segregation of native reality from colonial reality is based on a temporal separation which ascribes to the former a primitivity beyond the pale of contemporary definitions of humanity” (1996, 72). As discussed in chapter 3, representing the colonial landscape as primitive was the Europeans’ way of hiding their unfamiliarity with it, while asserting the white man’s superiority...

  12. 7 The Sexualized Native Body
    (pp. 140-161)

    This chapter is concerned with the sexualization of the Papua New Guinean body in the European imagination. The construction of the native body as an object of both desire and revulsion suggests that the body may be seen as a potent metaphor for culture. The ambivalence of colonialist representation pivots on the contradictory tropes of debasement and idealization. Where the primitive body is generally seen as savage and debased, colonialist attitudes toward the bodies of indigenous women in particular are imbued with ambivalence. And although the sexual danger of black males to white women is apparently more clear-cut, here too...

  13. 8 Writing Ourselves: Cultural Self-Representation in Contemporary Papua New Guinean Literature
    (pp. 162-188)

    For all the power and universality of colonial strategies of representation, the representation of Papua New Guineans has not been unilateral. Indigenous people have not been passive recipients but rather have constantly engaged the images of place and subjectivity provided by colonial discourse, along with the technologies, such as writing, painting, electronic media, and music, by which those images have often been perpetuated.

    This chapter proposes that Papua New Guinean writers have represented themselves and their cultures through the discursive practices of compartmentalization, appropriation, and interpolation. It is largely through these strategies that indigenous people have inserted themselves into mainstream...

  14. 9 Writing Ourselves II: Representing the Post-Independence Papua New Guinea Landscape
    (pp. 189-204)

    This chapter argues that, while maintaining a correspondence with themes and concerns expressed before national independence, the indigenous imaginings of Papua New Guinea since 1970 have become more complex. Indeed, PNG self-representation has traversed new sociopolitical and cultural boundaries. Like the literatures of other formerly colonized countries, postindependence PNG writings are strongly informed by the experience of colonialism and its aftermath.

    Contemporary PNG have to a great extent taken on the task of assessing the country’s changing sociopolitical, cultural, and economic landscape and destiny. Focused on the multiple ills the people are confronting, many of the works express a kind...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 205-210)

    As this study has shown, postcolonial representation is a site of continuing struggle between competing discourses grounded in different ideologies, preconceptions, and philosophies. Colonialist discourse demonstrated its ubiquitous coercive power in all forms of representative practice, with the same tropes occurring in both fictional and “factual” texts. Nonindigenous writers were very much influenced by the sociopolitical apparatus of their societies as these were manifested in the dominant discourse. They often embraced the preconceptions and biases of imperial culture, which relegated non-Europeans to positions of powerlessness. Representation does not exist outside discourse, which, as Foucault conceived it, is not simply talk,...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 211-212)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 213-234)
  18. Index
    (pp. 235-242)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 243-248)