By guest contributor Camellia Webb-Gannon, Research Fellow, University of Western Sydney

Despite occupying the western half of the island of New Guinea, located upon Australia’s doorstep,” West Papua is frequently referred to as far-flung, isolated, remote, and exotic. It has gained this reputation due to the cloak of secrecy within which it is draped by the Indonesian government, which bans foreign journalists and NGOs from entering the territory, and also because of its remarkably rugged terrain, which poses challenges for prospective travelers.

Camellia Webb-Gannon at Sydney Protest
When I give public lectures and when I speak privately about West Papua and the conflict that has dogged its people and lands for five decades, the question I am commonly presented with is Why West Papua?, the implication being that West Papua’s location and under-reported conflict is an eccentric choice for a researcher. While many anthropologists or conflict analysts choose to study a particular geographical area as a case study to further their disciplinary or theoretical work, I entered academia specifically as a means to learn more about, and advocate, for West Papua.

I grew up in Papua New Guinea with an ethnomusicologist father and developed an appreciation for things Melanesian from an early age. When my work in international development and HIV prevention took me to East Timor in the mid 2000s, I was struck by the similarities between East Timor’s and West Papua’s history of occupation, the difference being that West Papua had yet to emerge as an independent state. At the 2005 Pan-Pacific HIV/AIDS Conference in Auckland, New Zealand, I was struck by the absence of HIV in West Papua—a very real concern—as a conference topic. Despite disproportionately affecting and infecting West Papua’s Melanesian population, HIV was considered by conference organizers to be an Asian epidemic. Meeting West Papuan activist Dolly Zonggonau at this conference piqued my interest in other structural injustices impacting West Papuans. I resolved to pursue PhD studies on the challenges facing West Papua’s independence movement in the hope that my research skills would be useful for increasing knowledge about paths to peace with justice for West Papuans.

Being a professional academic activist is a privilege, particularly when so many West Papuan life-long activists with distinguished educations face threats of violence or worse when peacefully expressing their desire for merdeka, or freedom. My article for Anthropoligica, ‘Merdeka in West Papua: Peace, Justice, and Political Independence,’ is an attempt to use my privileged academic position to disseminate West Papuan leaders’ ideas about what merdeka means to them, and what a future shaped by merdeka might look like. It draws on interviews with three generations of West Papuans living in dispersion in seven countries, and argues that merdeka for West Papuans implies a state of governance characterized by peace with justice, with political independence as its baseline. The argument has two prongs. It argues from a top-down, international human rights law perspective that self-determination is a human right, and that peace with justice necessitates the fulfillment of fundamental human rights. It also argues from a bottom up, grassroots ethnographic perspective that West Papuans believe that peace with justice necessitates independence, and that they cannot realize collective or individual self-actualization until they are in a position where they have the choice to determine their own political future.

A compelling theoretical and ethnographic case can be put forward, but does it have any utility for advocacy purposes? This is something I have been reflecting on lately, as the recent election of a relatively democratically-minded OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIndonesian president, Joko Widodo, ironically makes the likelihood of political independence painfully remote. (If the tyrannical General Prabowo Subianto had been the victor, West Papuans’ pleas for international assistance would arguably have reached a more receptive international community). If, under Widodo West Papua becomes comparatively more open—political prisoners might be granted amnesty, for example, or the provinces might be accessible to international press, which would be welcome improvements, certainly—would this detract from the integrity of West Papuans’ right to self-determination? Or, even if conditions do not improve for West Papuans, but the apparent futility of pursuing West Papuans’ right to choose self-governance continues to grow, should international supporters of their right to self-determination desist and instead focus on campaigning for more achievable, limited human rights for West Papuans?

Such questions prompt me to ponder the utility of radical research; when I posed them recently to a friend and experienced West Papua human rights advocate, he reminded me that one should not grow weary of standing up for what is right, simply because one is in an apparently ever shrinking minority regarding the issue. Human rights should not be treated according to the whims of fashion, taken up or abandoned based on preference or convenience. All that is necessary for evil to triumph—for human rights to become obsolete—is for concerned people to do nothing, to paraphrase Burke. And miracles do occur, as the case of East Timor testifies. It is of course important not to be single-focused; strategic wisdom dictates that the more achievable gains be sought after as West Papuans walk their long walk to freedom. As the article articulates, it is unlikely that West Papuans will relinquish their dream—and right—to self-determination. However unobtainable their goal might appear now, it is a right and good thing for onlookers, members of the academic community included, to share the journey with them.


Read Camellia Webb-Gannon’s article Merdeka in West Papua: Peace, Justice and Political Independence in the most recent issue of Anthropologica 

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UntitledBy Guest contributor: Ivan Robinson

William Petty’s atlas of Ireland is an historic document that deserves to be better understood beyond the shores of the island it depicts. Published under the title Hiberniae Delineatio in1685, it comprised a general map, a map of each of the four provinces, and thirty-two county maps. It was the first printed atlas of Ireland and the first in Europe to be based on measured surveys. The regional maps contained a level of accuracy and detail never previously printed and drawn to scale across a whole country. The general map provided the earliest, widely available outline of Ireland substantially as it is known today. It became the definitive shape of Ireland for the next century.

But the atlas was more than a mirror of the physical and human geography of Ireland; it was also testimony to the role maps themselves can play in the historical process. Its main source was Petty’s Down Survey, which was an instrument of state control designed to transform Irish society through a massive change in land ownership, from Catholic to Protestant hands. The effect of this ‘plantation’was dramatic: in the twenty-year period between 1640 and 1660, Catholic ownership of Irish land dropped from 60 percent to less than 10 percent.

There is a growing acceptance amongst cartographic historians that an understanding of early maps is best achieved by integrating scientific and non-scientific approaches to map history. The scientific approach, which stresses the value-free, objective nature of maps, needs to be balanced with the idea that maps are also the products of other factors, including social, economic and political influences prevailing at the time the maps were made.          

UntitledFrom a scientific perspective, the Down Survey and atlas were not noted for cutting-edge methods. Rather, the success of Petty’s cartography was due to his organizing ability and his access to central government control. With the backing of a military government under Oliver Cromwell, he engaged a thousand men on the survey and completed the bulk of the work over a thirteen-month period in 1655-56. The field surveyors used well-tried traversing methods where lengths were measured by chain, and bearings by a surveying instrument called a circumferentor. Petty had these measurements plotted, or “surveyed downe”(hence the name of the survey), onto manuscriptparish maps. The parish maps were subsequently used as the ultimate source of much of the detailed information for the printed maps in the atlas.

The historical context largely determined the non-scientific influences on Petty’s maps. The English government determined that it would repay, with land confiscated from Irish Catholics, the costs incurred by Cromwell’s New Model Army to crush the Irish Rebellion (1641-53). But the government had little knowledge of either how much forfeited land would be available to settle its debts or where, precisely, such lands were located. The overriding purpose of the Down Survey was to provide this urgently needed information. The consequences that flowed from this direction were evident on the atlas maps. Firstly, the focus was on territorial boundaries within each county; physical and cultural features were usually included only where they helped to define those boundaries or to identify unproductive mountain and bog land. Secondly, lands already in Protestant ownership were not mapped in detail, leaving significant information gaps across half the country. Nevertheless, by virtue of the quality and unprecedented extent of mapping in the areas it did cover, the atlas provided a considerably clearer picture of Ireland’s geography than previously found in the seventeenth century.

Petty was aware from the outset that the incomplete coverage of the Down Survey stood in the way of his (ultimately unsuccessful) ambition to map the whole of Ireland. He compensated, in part, by conducting a concurrent boundary survey of baronies, the territorial divisions that fell between counties and parishes, across the entire country. The resulting barony maps, which continued to rely on the parish maps for detailed information within each barony, became the principal source for the atlas maps.

Much is known about the sources Petty used for his atlas but some unanswered questions remain. Almost 40 percent of the place names on the map for the county of Donegal were derived from sources other than the barony maps. Does the pattern in Donegal, an area not well covered by the Down Survey, apply to other regional maps and, if so, what other sources were used? The general map of Ireland also poses questions with respect to sources. Its coastlines did not follow those on the regional maps, as might have been expected. Again we are left to ask: what alternative sources were relied on?

It appears that with deeper understanding comes a heightened awareness that much remains to be learned about Petty’s atlas of Ireland…


Read the full paper: Ivan Robinson, “Understanding William Petty’s Atlas of Ireland.”Cartographica 49:1, 2014, pp. 35-51.

Contact the author:

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#UPWeek: Throwback to Canada’s History

by cmacmillan on November 13, 2014

banner.upw2014We’re thrilled to be one of 32 presses participating in this years UP Week Blog Tour. Each day this week, presses will be blogging on a different theme that highlights the value of collaboration among the scholarly community. Each day, we will round up of all the university presses that posted on that day. Today’s theme is “Throwback Thursday”. Check our our throwback to all of the historical records that have been published by The Champlain Society. Also make sure you check out these University Press blogs to see their Throwback Thursdays! Temple University Press,Wesleyan University Press,Harvard University Press, University of Washington Press, and MIT Press.


What must it have been like to be one of the first explorers of Canada? Or be a part of one of the first European settlements?

For over 106 years, The Champlain Society has been dedicated to advancing the knowledge of Canadian history through the publication of scholarly primary source documents from Canada’s eloquent historical figures. The initial focus was to publish the accounts of the great explorers on their voyages to Canada. However, since then, interests have broadened to include collection of letters on science, foreign policy, political affairs, governor generals, aspects of business history, and history of communities. Through its publications, The Champlain Society makes the adventures, explorations, discoveries, and opinions that have shaped Canada available to all who have an interest in history.

The material is organized into five series: Occasional Papers of the Champlain Society, Hudson’s Bay Company Series, Ontario Series, Publications of the Champlain Society, and Works of Samuel de Champlain. At different times over the years, the Society has worked in cooperation first with the Hudson’s Bay Company and then the Ontario Government to produce series of volumes on themes of mutual interest. As part of its mandate to spread awareness about Canada’s documentary heritage, the Champlain Society has published volumes of works by Samuel de Champlain, including previously unpublished documents, plates, and maps. The Society’s publication program continues with the Publications of the Champlain Society Series, presenting key and often little-known documents on aspects of the Canadian experience, edited and introduced by an expert in the field.

lescarbotMarc Lescarbot

The first volume of The Champlain Society was Marc LesCarbot’s History of New France, published in 1907, edited by W.L Grant and Henry Percival Biggar, which shared the history of the 1524 voyage for Francis I of Giovanni da Verrazzano to North America, and the tragic efforts of Jean Ribault, René Goulaine de Laudonnière, and Dominique de Gourges to establish a Huguenot colony in modern Florida in the 1560s. Additionally it also delves into to the failed effort by Nicolas Durand de Villegagnon to establish a French presence in Brazil in 1555.

Most recently, The Collected Writings of Pierre-Esprit Radisson. Volume II: The Port Nelson Relations, Miscellaneous Writings, and Related Documents, edited by Germaine Warkentin, was published. The writings collected in The Port Nelson Relations, Miscellaneous Writings, and Related Documents are all drawn from the last four decades of Radisson’s long life. In 1682, Radisson was rejected by the HBC and to some extent by his contacts in France, and set out with Des Groseilliers to help a new Canadian-based company establish a fur trade post on the distant Nelson River. There, Radisson outwitted challengers arriving both from New England and the HBC itself, while managing at the same time to establish profitable trade relations with the local Cree. Volume II brings together the two Relations, along with Radisson’s few additional writings, and the background documents that illustrate the fundamentally European world Radisson had to survive in from 1668 to 1710.

pierre-esprit-radisson-02Pierre-Esprit Radisson

Since the publication of the History of New France, over 100 volumes of documentary publications have been printed and increased the public’s awareness of, and accessibility to, Canada’s rich store of historical records.

The Champlain Society was founded with an expressed mandate to spread awareness of Canada’s documentary heritage and it has upheld this mandate for the past century. However, due to the rapid evolution of today’s technology, The Champlain Society transitioned all of its published material into a Digital Collection to ensure that these books continue to be easily accessible to anyone who wishes to consult them. This digital initiative is the Society’s latest effort to ensure that Canada’s historical documents remain current and continue to educate generations of Ontarians and Canadians about the past and the people whose works have shaped our imaginations.

Through its books and Digital Collection, The Champlain Society has made the adventures, explorations, discoveries, and opinions of Canada’s significant historical figures available so that the scholar, the student, or the simply curious can consult this vast body of knowledge. The Society will not rest in its mission to publish Canadian documentary materials and will continue to serve as an advocate on the proper care of, and accessibility to, Canada’s historical records.

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University Press Week: Day 3

by cmacmillan on November 12, 2014

banner.upw2014We’re thrilled to be one of 32 presses participating in this years UP Week Blog Tour. Each day this week, presses will be blogging on a different theme that highlights the value of collaboration among the scholarly community. Each day, we will round up of all the university presses that posted on that day. Today’s theme is “University Presses in Popular Culture”. Check out all the posts below. Stay tuned for our post coming tomorrow!


Wednesday November 12, 2014: University Presses in Popular Culture

University of Pennsylvania Press: Where Knowledge Finds a Voice

The University of Georgia Press and New Georgia Encyclopedia: A Collaboration of Like Minds – See more at:
The University of Georgia Press and New Georgia Encyclopedia: A Collaboration of Like Minds – See more at:
The University of Georgia Press and New Georgia Encyclopedia: A Collaboration of Like Minds – See more at:
The University of Georgia Press and New Georgia Encyclopedia: A Collaboration of Like Minds – See more at:

Princeton University Press: Princeton at the Movies

University Press of Kentucky: His Life on the Blacklist, or How Communists Brought Us the “Cran-stache” #UPWeek

Georgetown University Press: Watch Spy Shows with Georgetown University Press

University Press of Mississippi: Now Playing: Walt Before Mickey

University of Wisconsin Press: RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES: Timely books bring depth to public debates and issues

Now Playing: Walt Before Mickey
Now Playing: Walt Before Mickey


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University Press Week 2014: Day 1 and 2

by cmacmillan on November 11, 2014

banner.upw2014We’re thrilled to be one of 32 presses participating in this years  UP Week Blog Tour. Each day this week, presses will be blogging on a different theme that highlights the value of collaboration among the scholarly community. Each day, we will round up of all the university presses that posted on that day. Yesterday, presses blogged about various collaborative projects they have participated in. Today’s theme is “Your University Press in Pictures”. Check out all the posts below. Stay tuned for our post coming this Thursday!


Monday November 10, 2014: Collaborations

University of Georgia Press: The University of Georgia Press and New Georgia Encyclopedia: A Collaboration of Like Minds

The University of Georgia Press and New Georgia Encyclopedia: A Collaboration of Like Minds – See more at:
The University of Georgia Press and New Georgia Encyclopedia: A Collaboration of Like Minds – See more at:
The University of Georgia Press and New Georgia Encyclopedia: A Collaboration of Like Minds – See more at:
The University of Georgia Press and New Georgia Encyclopedia: A Collaboration of Like Minds – See more at:

Duke University Press: Eben Kirksey on Collaboration at the Intersection of Anthropology and Biology

University of California Press: University Press Week, Day 1: Collaboration

University of Virginia Press: The Art of Collaboration

McGill-Queen’s University Press: Landscape Architecture in Collaboration

Texas A&M University Press: Consumer Health Advocacy Book Author Discusses Collaboration

Project Muse: University Press Week 2014: Collaboration

Yale University Press: Museum Quality Books: Sculpting with Shadow

University of Chicago Press: Turabian Teacher Collaborative

Tuesday November 11, 2014: Your University Press in Pictures

Indiana University Press: A brief history of IU Press in pictures

Stanford University Press: To Make A Book (Circa 1960)

Johns Hopkins University Press: Celebrating University Press Week: JHUP in Pictures

University Press of Florida: UPF in Pictures through the Years


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Canadian Journal of History Author, Victoria Vasilenko, Explores the History of Federalism and the Search for Settlement in Postwar East Central Europe

October 27, 2014

Photo Credit,Olga Smolyak Written by guest blogger, Victoria Vasilenko. Interest in federalist concepts by thinkers and politicians from the former Soviet bloc has grown following the biggest expansion of the European Union in 2004. Although Western Europe paved the way for the formation of the EU, recent scholarship proved that at times Eastern European concepts […]

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“Exciting and terrifying”: A young feminist scholar reflects on (social egg freezing as a solution for) “having it all”

October 16, 2014

Guest post by: Lesley A. Tarasoff In the most recent issue of the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics (IJFAB) you will find an article critiquing the view that social egg freezing is the solution to “having it all,” that is, a thriving career and a family (children) at the same time. This is […]

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Canadian Journal of History Author, Michael Wagner, Shares his Fascination with the History of The Hudson’s Bay Company

September 25, 2014

Photo Credit, Heather Wagner Written by guest blogger, Michael Wagner. Like most Canadians, I grew up with a sense that the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) played an important role in the exploration and development of the country.   My impression was that the really interesting period of the company’s history started when it began to compete […]

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In The News: Did Racial Profiling Play a Part in Michael Brown’s Death in Ferguson?

August 22, 2014

Tensions have remained high in Ferguson, Missouri since Officer Darren Wilson shot 18 year-old Michael Brown.  CBC reported on Monday that Brown’s autopsy revealed that Officer Wilson had shot the teen six times, including one fatal shot to the head. According to Officer Wilson, Brown reached for his gun during  a struggle with police. However, […]

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The Canadian Historical Review Commemorates the Centenary of the First World War with an Open Access Bibliography

August 20, 2014

On August 4, 2014 Canadians marked the 100th anniversary of the First World War. The centennial has not only given Canadians an opportunity to commemorate the anniversary and honour our fallen soldiers, but to discuss the war and the ways it has been studied, remembered, and forgotten over the past century. This conversation has brought […]

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