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Athabasca University

Colonial Administration

Throughout colonial history, administrations have enabled only those components of print culture that suited their mandate and their goals. This meant a focus on bureaucratic requirements, economic development, the maintenance of law and order, and the provision of education. When it came to sponsoring print culture past these limits, colonial administrations generally needed a push.

When administrations were reactive in their sponsorship, they relied on cooperation with other sponsors and might choose to work indirectly through them: relying, for example, on the reports, trained personnel, or infrastructure of another sponsor.

When colonial administrations were pro-active in their sponsorship, they used those government departments and branches best suited to the theorized relationship between metropolis and colony and to the current social construction of colonial peoples (or they used the departments they had at the time). Accordingly, the office of the governor, or administrator; departments of native affairs, or of native welfare; overseas or external territories; agriculture; extension; education; or information might take the lead in print culture sponsorship.

As colonial peoples were constructed from economic units, to subjects, and then to citizens, the need to provide for individual and community development became evident to most colonial regimes. Gradually, administrations became involved in such activities as sponsoring literacy campaigns; training writers, editors, and technicians; organizing writers associations; funding libraries and archives; publishing self-help literature and textbooks; subsidizing cultural institutes; publishing periodicals; broadcasting radio scripts; running literature contests; and funding festivals.

When acting as print culture sponsors, colonial administrations might engage in the following practices:

  • defining the “native” or the “colonial” and the interactions that those social categories would have with the colonial government and the metropolis with regard to print culture. These parameters were set according to contemporary philosophies of race, class, gender, and modernization; in concert with prevalent theories and sciences of native and colonial administration; and considering the political economy of the colonial situation;
  • controlling/negotiating print culture interactions through a series of policy decisions, legislation, and regulations that gave direction to administrative staff (especially as regards the use of language) as well as boundaries to colonial peoples;
  • resourcing institutions and practices of administration-sponsored print culture activities and those of other sponsors;
  • mentoring colonial peoples to assume the roles and responsibilities of administrative staff in preparation for the roles required of citizens in a new state.
  • assessing the success and viability of institutions, programs, and practices. The pragmatic nature of administration involvement often meant that programs were treated as short-term projects: once the immediate goal had been achieved, they might be terminated or given to another sponsor.

All of the activities listed above occurred in Papua New Guinea, as the Australian administration slowly accepted the notion that literacy and higher education could further its goals. From the time of Sir Hubert Murray, to the decolonizing era of the 1960s and 1970s, the colonial administrations of Papua and New Guinea engaged in sponsorship activities, although evidence is strongest from the latter period.

This website examines in particular the various magazines, newspapers, and journals sponsored by the administration; the activities of the Literature Bureau, including the Literature Competitions, and various cultural agencies such as the Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies.

Updated October 13 2016 by Library Services