Contemporary Histories Research Group Seminar 2019

CHRG 2019 Seminar
Deb Lee-Talbot speaking at 2019 CHRG seminar, 26 September. Source: Dr Carolyn Holbrook.

When I delivered my Honours presentation in July 2018 I realised I had some significant work to do to up my presentation capabilities and present my work in a way that both interested and informed my audience.

It was an absolute delight to achieve both intentions when I delivered Papua’s First ‘Prime Minister’ and the ‘Queen of New Guineans’- how feminist discourse functioned within the London Missionary Society spaces in Papua, from 1874 to 1898 at Deakin UniversityContemporary Histories Research Group’s final seminar

This presentation examined how, during the late nineteenth century, members of Motuan communities and the London Missionary Society came together in a series of complex intercultural, social encounters on the frontier fields of New Guinea. A close reading of letters, reports, and newspaper articles from this period detail the particulars of the trade, labour and conversion encounters that occurred. During this presentation, I combine these materials with a critical feminist gaze to examine the experiences of women, European and Papuan, in this place during the late nineteenth. I consider the experiences of two women in particular, Fan Lawes and Keua. I describe how these women encountered one another and I then scrutinize their experiences of being named the ‘Queen of New Guineans’ and ‘Prime Minister’. I contend it was the social and cultural disruption caused by the arrival of the London Missionary Society members that enabled these women to obtain politically powerful roles and be named accordingly.

I appreciate all the efforts people undertook to attend, and look forward to being part of the Contemporary Histories Research Group‘s 2020 speaking schedule.