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Athabasca University

Religious Organizations/Institutions

Aside from the educational function performed by many religious organizations, the driving force behind their participation in print culture sponsorship was ideological: principally, the need for adherents to read the Bible and religious tracts for themselves in their own languages. It was, for example, their focus on adult literacy that led Christian missions to become a significant sponsor of literacy programs and the creation of vernacular literatures.

Christian missions used their own infrastructure to develop literacy classes, print shops and publishing houses, extensive networks of libraries and bookshops, writers training centres, translation services, newsletters and newspapers, literature competitions, and significant opportunities for paid employment.

Many members of indigenized churches wrote for church newsletters and newspapers, or for commercial newspapers; many were teachers; some were creative writers. Parts of the mission-based infrastructure could be either given outright to the administration for national use or loaned to the administrations and universities until those spheres could develop their own infrastructure.

Religious organizations might adopt the following practices as their sponsorship priorities:

  • reifying contemporary notions of the role of the religious organization in society and the duty of its representatives through print culture activity;
  • mediating between colonial peoples and the colonial administration as advocates, interpreters, translators, and mentors;
  • controlling/negotiating textual content according to varying perspectives held by a widespread range of print culture participants;
  • creating and/or accessing religious networks in order to resource print culture institutions and practices;
  • indigenizing print culture institutions and programs as quickly as possible;Creative Training Centre
  • assessing the success and viability of print culture infrastructure and practices in order to ensure their future. Since political independence was incidental to the transfer of Christian ideology, print culture sponsorship could continue via the continued presence of foreign missions, or via indigenous churches.

As one of the most “missionized” places in the world, Papua New Guinea provides an especially interesting case study for the involvement of religious organizations in the sponsorship of print culture.

The missions, and then the indigenized churches, represent a change agency that remained after political independence. They therefore provide a useful historical yardstick for charting the transition of a print culture sponsor from colonialism to nation. While many of the programs and practices of the colonial administration did not survive independence, or were changed dramatically by the independent government, the Christian churches and missions supply certain consistencies of practice against which those of other print culture sponsors can be assessed.

This website pays particular attention to such mission-based infrastructure as Kristen Pres, the Summer Institute of Linguistics, and the Creative Training Centre. Their sponsorship is clearly significant for the history of print culture in Papua New Guinea. However, there are many other aspects of mission involvement in the sponsorship of print culture, such as the role of the mission presses, that await detailed study.

Updated October 13 2016 by Library Services