Maaike Derksen, who is a Visiting Scholar with the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture, will present a research seminar on Wednesday 2 November on her current research relating to New Guinea. The talk begins at 11am in Te Iringa Kōrero (R3S10), on the third floor of Te Tumu: School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies. We hope to see you there on November 2nd!
The 141 Meridian East was established as a colonial border across the Island of New Guinea in 1895. This border divided New Guinea and the adjacent Islands among three foreign powers; the Netherlands, Germany and Britain (later Australia). Nowadays it still effectively acts as one of colonial cartography’s boundaries, separating ‘Asia’ from ‘the Pacific’. In colonial and contemporary maps of (South) East Asia alike, one can see that Papua New Guinea is often curiously absent, while maps of the Pacific stop short of the New Guinea boundary. In this talk I examine the ways in which New Guinea offers an excellent opportunity to explore imperial interconnections and historicize the exchanges, rivalries, and cooperation that resulted.
The last decade, New Imperial scholarship has paid attention to (trans) imperial networks and the connection between motherland and colony within individual colonies. However, this neglects the economic, political, cultural, religious, migratory and cross-cultural entanglements that took place across the peripheries— between ‘neighboring’ colonies. The approach I propose challenges nationalist views of colonialism as well as such rigid views of ‘colonial’ boundaries. With a narrow lens of regional history (New Guinea) combined with the conceptual approach of inter-colonial entanglements I will be able to emphasize the complexities and messy realities of colonial encounters. Especially when entanglements between different actors are highlighted, one can see that colonial boundaries were fluid— that there was movement of goods, knowledge, and people, a formation of networks, shared internal and external threats to security. New Guinea offers numerous cases of cross-border exchange that are worth exploring; the establishment of colonial authority/administration; the networks of traders, pearl divers and bird of paradise hunters, the missionary endeavor of studying, civilizing and converting the indigenous population; the exploring, mapping of the region via scientific and military expeditions; the ‘pacification’ process, the invasion of Japan.
Maaike Derksen is a PhD candidate in at the History Department and Institute for Gender studies at the Radboud University of Nijmegen. Her research interests focus on colonial history, Christian missions, colonial anthropology, scientific expeditions and the Pacific War in the Dutch East Indies.