Developing Indigenous and National Roots through Religious Publishing: The Catholic Press in Papua New Guinea

By Linda Crowl.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

After several aborted attempts by other orders, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart established a mission on Yule Island in 1885 and began work in the world’s most linguistically diverse environment: New Guinea and its offshore islands. In 1896 Fr André-Louis Navarre’s Manuel des Missionnaires du Sacré-Cœur parmi les Sauvages was published at Port Léon, Yule Island. Intending it for internal use, he advocated that indigenous workers would reduce Catholicism’s foreign nature and help it to take root. Missionaries and local partners worked to translate biblical material into vernaculars. Training included literacy skills for the masses and publishing skills for the few. Their efforts helped to preserve some of Papua New Guinea’s more than 860 languages and its rich oral histories and material cultures. Tension between the universal and the particular saw spreading contact bring to the fore need for a common language. In the 1930s missionaries of the Society of the Divine Word chose Tok Pisin (Pidgin), which became one of three national languages, including Motu and English. Mission workers laboured with government offices and other churches to increase types and numbers of publications. Challenges included Australian publishers’ perceptions of ‘turf,’ copyright restrictions, geographically imposed transportation difficulties, and even limitations by Papua New Guinea’s own government. Fortunately, the geographic dispersion and personal tenacity that has characterized Catholic endeavours from the beginning applies also to its publishing, which continues to provide not just religious books, but materials in a myriad of fields so as to improve people’s daily lives—counselling, education, health, personal finance, politics—and to celebrate local arts, cultures, and languages.

Keywords: Publishing, Papua New Guinea, Catholic Church, Politics, Nation-state

International Journal of the Book, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp.155-170. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 556.758KB).

Dr. Linda Crowl

Dean, Faculty of Arts, Divine Word University, Madang, Papua New Guinea

Linda Crowl has been a budget analyst for the US Senate Budget Committee, the editor of SAIS Review of Johns Hopkins University, managing editor of The Washington Quarterly of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Peace Corps volunteer, publications fellow for the Institute of Pacific Studies at the University of the South Pacific, a research fellow at Victoria and Otago universities, and senior lecturer in international relations and dean of the Faculty of Arts at Divine Word University. Her interests are publishing and politics in the Pacific Islands. Having worked at elite and grass-roots levels, she is keenly interested in democratic creation and transfer of knowledge. In addition to running publishing programmes from commissioning to marketing, she has run workshops to encourage research, writing, and publishing.


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