« An Accomplished Fieldworker: A Biography of H. Ian Hogbin »

par Geoffrey Gray

University of Queensland


télécharger en pdf
How to cite this article

Gray, Geoffrey, 2018. « An Accomplished Fieldworker: A Biography of H. Ian Hogbin » in Bérose, Encyclopédie en ligne sur l’histoire de l’anthropologie et des savoirs ethnographiques, Paris, IIAC-LAHIC, UMR 8177.

Herbert Ian Priestley Hogbin belongs to anthropology’s heroic age. He was a member of that brilliant between-the-wars generation – including Raymond Firth, Reo Fortune, Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, Hortense Powdermaker and Douglas Oliver – who pioneered modern field research in the insular South Pacific. Hogbin would be remarkable in any period for the extent of his field research and the volume of his writings. He worked in no fewer than five Pacific communities and published nine books and numerous articles. In 1944 he received the Wellcome Medal for anthropological research; in 1946 the Rivers Memorial Medal, both awarded by the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.


Herbert William Hogbin was born in Serlby, Harworth, Nottinghamshire, England, on17 December 1904 and emigrated with his family to Australia in February 1914. He died 1 August 1989. In 1929 Hogbin changed his name by deed poll. He informed the Registrar of the University of Sydney that ‘I recently discovered that my name is not what I had thought it was. Would you therefore have it altered in future editions of the [University] Calender. I am entered as “Herbert William Hogbin”: my name is really “Herbert Ian Hogbin”.’ He inexplicably added ‘Priestley’. [1]

He attended school in Leeton, in country New South Wales, and then Fort Street High School in Sydney. He attended the University of Sydney, on an education bursary, where he completed, in 1926, a Bachelor of Arts and a Diploma in Education. [2] Hogbin attended Radcliffe-Brown’s lectures on social anthropology — Anthropology I and Anthropology II — in the newly formed Department of Anthropology. [3] Hogbin was bonded to the Education department and he had to pay out his bond if he wanted to move to anthropology. He thanked Dorothy Rhodes Taylor, younger sister of Thomas Griffith Taylor, associate professor and foundation head of geography in the University of Sydney : ‘You know quite well that if it had not been for you I could not have been an anthropologist, don’t you? If you had not come to my rescue with a loan when Radcliffe Brown first made me the offer I might now be teaching! (awful thought).’Anthropology at Sydney was a heady time. Piddington described the ‘solidarity … [during] the old days of the Group’, as he called them, their solidarity being increased by anthropology’s newness and hence its opposition to other ‘decaying disciplines’. These young anthropologists, which included H Ian Hogbin [4], Raymond Firth, Lloyd Warner [5], CWM Hart [6], WEH Stanner [7] and the linguist Gerhardt Laves [8], confident in themselves and their position, were on a journey to make a career in the new discipline of social anthropology. [9] Raymond Firth remembers Sydney when he was there (1928-1933):

...less professional but important for my aesthetic development and breadth of cultural understanding, in what I sometimes used to call the ’golden years.’ We were a cosmopolitan group of diverse interests, but we saw much of one another, dining together nearly every night at a Swiss restaurant, the Claremont Cafe, and having frequent parties at one another’s rooms. Both Radcliffe-Brown and Hogbin were members of the group…. We also had links with the Sydney ’Little Theatre’ movement. … It was a lively, amusing period that no doubt helped to strengthen my feeling for the exotic. [10]

From Radcliffe-Brown to Malinowski

Social Anthropology was a new academic discipline and developing a professional method and process. During the interwar period Australian social anthropology, slowly but surely, became a recognised academic discipline with the accoutrements of professionaliz
ation: specialised and specific qualifications and training, specific funding for research problems, a growing body of specialists, a journal devoted to publishing the results of research, and various attempts to control a market for their expertise. [11] Social anthropology was established at the University of Sydney in 1926 with the appointment of AR Radcliffe-Brown as professor. Its primary focus was on the external colonies of Papua and New Guinea. [12] Faced with a shortage of trained social anthropologists, Radcliffe-Brown persuaded — as Hogbin remarked later — a scarcely prepared twenty-two-year-old to join an expedition to Rennell Island and Ontong Java in what was then the British Solomon Islands Protectorate (BSIP). In late June 1927 Hogbin left Sydney for Rennell Island, part of a ‘geological expedition,’ looking for phosphate deposits on Rennell Island, organized by the University of Sydney and the government of the BSIP. [13] He commented some years later that he ‘was ignorant of Polynesian and had lost all my books and most of my supplies in a shipwreck, I made very little headway.’ [14] Forced to leave before the survey was complete he moved to Ontong Java. He had been awarded an Australian National Research Council (ANRC) fellowship to conduct this field-work. Scholars considered for fellowships were ‘men of unusual promise [who] should be assured of either a definite University post or of a connection with teaching, research or scientific work having a direct bearing on some biological aspect of human welfare’. [15]

Hogbin took anthropometric measurements on Rennell Island and Ontong Java, where he finally abandoned the practice. [16] In late February, 1928, after nearly five months on Ontong Java, Hogbin returned to Sydney. After some discussion on his work and no doubt a welcome rest from field-work on Rennell and Ontong Java Radcliffe-Brown sent him back, sure that Hogbin had served his apprenticeship. In mid-May Hogbin returned to Ontong Java, remaining until early 1929. [17]

Despite his extended period in the field he was disappointed. In contrast to the ‘completely untouched condition of the [Rennell Island] natives,’ who presented ‘an almost unique field for study’ the Ontong Javanese ‘traditional culture’ had broken down. [18] This was primarily a result of ‘depopulation’, which had a dramatic impact on people and cultural practices. [19] Depopulation, its causes and possible remedies, was a constant theme of ethnographic investigation and comment at the time. Yet his research, despite his disappointment, illustrated ‘the forces which operate … at all stages of the individual’s life to ensure his conformity to social standards of conduct.’ [20] He was awarded his MA in Anthropology (for his work on Ontong Java) on 12 August 1929, the same year he left for the London School of Economics (LSE) to write his doctoral dissertation under Bronislaw Malinowski — later published as Law and Order in Polynesia (1934). Malinowski wrote a theoretical introduction which was described by one reviewer as ‘not so much an act of piety towards a disciple as an attempt to reply to a growing number of critics.’ [21]

Hogbin considered himself a Malinowskian functionalist, although he owed his interest and development in social anthropology to Radcliffe-Brown. In September 1934, soon after Law and Order was published, he explained to Dorothy Rhodes Taylor :

I do not know if I have told you before…I have completely lost respect for Radcliffe Brown’s scientific theories and with that tumbled all regard for his person. He is a vain silly man — also I fear a very unhappy one. At the same time…I have a regard for him in that he made me an anthropologist. The book [Law and Order] of course ought to have been dedicated to Malinowski, only that would not have been right — I owe too much to Radcliffe Brown. Also naturally it was impossible when he wrote the Introduction, I wrote and told [Malinowski] how sorry I was that I could not at least group his name with Radcliffe Brown, and he very kindly wrote back to say that he would like to have me dedicate my next book to him, and he was sure that it would be a better one anyway. [22]

Applied Anthropology and the Mirage of Enlightened Colonialism]

Hogbin returned to Sydney in 1931. He spent most of 1932 and 1934 first in Guadalcanal and Malaita in the BSIP and then in Wogeo (Schoutten Islands) in the Australian-administered Territory of New Guinea (TNG), a League of Nations mandate. On his return from LSE he was appointed temporary lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Sydney to teach Melanesian ethnography — a position made permanent in 1936. Hogbin made the University of Sydney his academic base for the rest of his career, while regularly visiting London on sabbatical leave. He used these visits to develop his love for Italian Renaissance painting in the galleries of Europe, Baroque architecture, the theatre and opera. [23]

Notwithstanding Sydney being close to his geographical areas of interest, he was on the lookout for other academic positions. In 1937 he applied unsuccessfully for the Chair at Johannesburg and was undecided about an opening at Aberdeen; he asked Raymond Firth to keep him in mind should there be ‘any [other] suitable openings’. [24] He also applied for a position at Cambridge in early 1938. [25] It indicates that not all was well with Sydney, particularly Hogbin’s professional and personal relationship with AP Elkin.

Like anthropologists of the time, he spent long periods in the field, rarely returning, however, to conduct long term follow-up research. His primary anthropological interests were social and cultural change, depopulation and colonial administration, which shifted after the war into a more orthodox ethnography, illustrated by his publications in the 1960s and 1970s. [26] He published widely on many of these topics and his Malaita study was published as Experiments in Civilisation: The effects of European culture on a native community of the Solomon Islands, published in the same year as World War II was declared. [27] Experiments in Civilisation (1951) was meant to be a ‘pioneer study of a society in the process of change’. [28] It was, in his own estimation, of

theoretical importance, in that the process of culture change is a phenomenon of great sociological significance; but it has in addition practical relevance, since the analysis of the actual results of attempts by European agents to transform native societies along lines they consider desirable shows whether they are in fact achieving what they seek and whether there are any unsuspecting developments of their activities.

He drew on African colonial policy and practice, which ‘for the most part [were] more progressive than in the South Seas, with the object not only of indicating possible lines of development, but also furnishing…practical assistance to administrators and missionaries’. [29] We see this suite of interests appear in his war research in the BSIP and in his advice to the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU), which carried out all the functions of the prewar government as well providing assistance and advice to the civilian postwar PNG Government.

At the outbreak of war with Germany, Hogbin was teaching, his career seemingly secure and promising. Hogbin enlisted on 17 April 1942 several months after war with Japan was declared. Before the war, Hogbin had developed a loose association with a literary coterie at the university: ‘everyone in this circle adopted a pose of contempt for everything that was happening in the intellectual wasteland it was their misfortune to find themselves in’. [30] Hogbin fell into the category of people Elkin ‘disapproved of strongly: the “anti-personality” — people who questioned the system’. The relationship between Elkin and Hogbin was, not surprisingly, fraught. Elkin was the antithesis of the more refined and elegant Hogbin, and Elkins’ biographer concedes that Hogbin had advantages of style and substance over his more senior colleague: ‘striding up and down in front of the students with a cigarette between his fingers, [Hogbin] was widely read, cultured, liberal, brilliant, a witty lecturer.’ [31] First as a student and later as a colleague LR Hiatt described Hogbin’s lectures as ‘polished, on-stage, matchless performances.’ [32] Poor relations between Hogbin and Elkin were exacerbated by it. [33]

Soon after he enlisted, Hogbin was appointed to the National Morale Committee (NMC), headed by Conlon. [34] In January 1943, Hogbin and his colleague Roy Wright, Professor of Physiology at the University of Melbourne, were sent to northern Queensland to investigate morale. They spent three weeks in Cairns, Townsville and Rockhampton, and ‘although in that short period a full and complete investigation of the problem was not possible, we feel that we can, with confidence, put forward a number of recommendations’. They delivered their report on 1 February. [35] It was put in the filing cabinet. Perhaps the lack of action is explained by the Morale Committee and its members being seen as intruders by the traditionalists in the bureaucracy. [36] Nevertheless, the Committee created the beginnings of a network of intellectuals, academics and professional men who would influence government policy during and after the war. [37]

In 1943 at the request of Western Pacific High Commissioner Sir Philip Mitchell, Hogbin served as a member of the BSIP Defence Force. He was responsible for writing the Protectorate’s Native Court and Local Government Policy in preparation for postwar rehabilitation, and he visited north Malaita where he had previously worked. [38] As a member of the British Solomon Islands Defence Force, he was set the task, for which he was well qualified, of looking into the question of ‘Native courts and Native counsellors’, the results of which were published in 1944. [39] All his recommendations were accepted. [40] In 1945 a new set of regulations, ‘Instructions to natives’, was promulgated. Hogbin approved of these changes, adding that indirect rule was ‘beginning to take definite shape’. He hoped that the newly established civil administration in Papua and New Guinea ‘will be as fully alive to its responsibilities and follow the example of its enlightened neighbour’. [41] He wrote a confidential report, which examined a range of matters including the loyalty of Solomon Islanders and reasons for Solomon Islander resentment towards the British. He described the way in which the villagers greeted the incoming Americans and their dissatisfaction with the withdrawal of British officials in the face of imminent Japanese attack. [42] His main task was to make a month’s investigation at the village he worked at in the 1930s (described in Experiments in Civilization) and a ‘short tour of the more heavily devastated areas where the [British] administration is now experiencing considerable difficulty’. [43] These were also matters that he addressed during and after the war with regard to Papuan and New Guinean people who were caught in the competing and often conflicting demands of wartime allegiance and loyalty.

On his return to Sydney, in early November 1943, Hogbin was appointed to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Australian Infantry Force (AIF). In April that year Alfred A Conlon, who had headed the Committee for National Morale, had convinced Major-General Victor Stanke, Adjutant-General of Land Headquarters, to form a small research section under his command. Most of those who were part of the NMC were appointed, and it expanded and became the Directorate of Research under Sir Thomas Blamey, Commander-in-Chief of Australian forces. [44] (It was only in April 1945 that it became the Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs - DORCA) Hogbin described himself as ‘official adviser on native affairs to the High Command of the Western Pacific’. [45] In March 1942, the Allied South West Pacific Command was formed and US General Douglas MacArthur was appointed Supreme Allied Commander South West Pacific Area. The South-West Pacific was clearly defined and was one of two theatres of World War II in the Pacific; it included the Philippines, the Netherlands East Indies (excluding Sumatra), British Borneo, Australian-controlled Papua and New Guinea and the British Solomon Islands. Notwithstanding his diverse war work, Hogbin spent most of his time during the war in Papua and New Guinea.

One of Hogbin’s first tasks was to study the effects on village life following the Army’s use of indigenous labour — that is, the removal of men from the village thus disrupting the social and economic life of people. These men were employed to support actual operations as carriers and stretcher-bearers. They were also engaged in tasks such as road making, clearing, construction of storage sheds and camps, and stevedoring. In bald terms, the number of New Guineans who were employed by ANGAU in June 1944 was 35,958 — up from 2033 in June 1942. [46] Hogbin spent short periods at various places as is indicated in his diary: ‘Depart…April 26 [1944] for a couple of days at Lae: then Benabena: then Gusap…then Wau to collect records of court cases only: then up the coast from here [Finschhafen] to accompany a patrol making first contact with reconquered villages.’ He was unable ‘to see the whole of New Guinea, [and] confined [himself], except for Port Moresby, to the former Mandated Territory’, and, with the exception of Manus and Bougainville, he ‘spent a few weeks in every other Administrative district which had been freed of enemy occupation’. [47] He was confident that he would produce a ‘report which ought to be of value — though whether it will be acted upon is another matter. Briefly, the stink is appalling: and one place I was so angry that I couldn’t sleep (largely, I suppose, because I felt it wise to remain silent).’ [48] In his reports and correspondence, Hogbin was critical of ANGAU’s recruitment practices, leadership and its staff.

Hogbin’s assessment of the labour situation was contrary to that contained in an internal ANGAU report — Report on the activities of ANGAU in respect of native relief and rehabilitation in the Territory of Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea — which covered the period from February 1942 to September 1944. [49] It is probable, however, that the ANGAU report was in part a response to Hogbin’s Report of an investigation of native labour in New Guinea — an investigation conducted between March and mid-June 1944. [50]

He assailed all aspects of ANGAU’s labour control and what he saw as the abuse and misuse of New Guinean labour in working for officers in the Army’s mess, building and decorating gardens, acting as personal servants and such like and being kept therefore unnecessarily away from their home villages with the effect that village social and economic life was deprived of physically fit men. Hogbin was of the opinion that the percentage of indentured labourers was too high, pointing out that anthropologists like himself believed 25-30 per cent of adult males removed from the villages had the potential to undermine the whole social structure. He favoured somewhere about 5 per cent. [51] Patrol reports by ANGAU officers confirmed the deleterious effects of labour recruitment on village life. [52] While recognising that war had a high impact on village life, military commanders argued this was a result of the demands of war and unavoidable. [53]

Hogbin was concerned that many New Guineans had suffered ‘considerable loss of property and foodstuffs as a result of the war’, which would improve once men were returned to their villages. He recommended that indentured labourers should be ‘freed’ to return to their villages to produce food. He was also critical of the Native Labour Officers: ‘the majority of these men have no real interest in native welfare and [are] chiefly concerned with maintaining or increasing employment figures for the sake of their promotion’. [54]

Indentured labour had long been criticised particularly by missionaries and humanitarian groups calling for its reform, preferably its abolition. In December 1944, the Minister, E. J. Ward, convened a conference on the future of ‘Native Labour’ in a post-war Papua New Guinea. Elkin chaired the conference. Hogbin represented the directorate. It was at this conference that the minister announced that indentured labour would be phased out. [55] This led to the repatriation of all indentured labour after the war.

There had been established in February 1942 a War Damage Commission, which covered white residents in the Australian territories of Papua and New Guinea who had been ‘unfortunate enough to suffer loss as a result of war operations’. [56] In October 1944, the Commonwealth Government set up the Native War Damage Compensation Committee to recommend a just and practicable plan for compensating natives in Papua and New Guinea for loss of or damage to land and property, or death or injury, arising from military operations, or ‘from causes attributable to the existence of a state of war in the Territories’. [57] There is little doubt that Hogbin’s report contributed significantly to the establishment of such a committee. Hogbin was appointed to the committee headed by J. V. Barry, a Victorian barrister, and which included Major James Taylor of ANGAU — an experienced pre-war district services field officer. Barry spent only eight days in Papua New Guinea so that most of the work fell onto Hogbin and Taylor. [58] The committee reported to the Government in August 1945. Hogbin was assisted by Kenneth Eyre (Mick) Read, a young student of his at the University of Sydney, whom he had had transferred to the directorate from army duty in the Northern Territory, where he was a general clerk in the traffic section of the 8th Australian Army Ordnance Division; he arranged for Read’s promotion from corporal to sergeant. [59] The committee was exceptional ‘in its comprehensiveness, in the time and effort demanded by government officials, in expenditure, and in the direction of funds and effort to ordinary villagers it was an extraordinary policy and even more extraordinary application of a policy’. [60] The membership of the committee, especially Taylor and Hogbin, predisposed it to be generous towards Papuan and New Guineans and not make moral judgments about the loyalty or otherwise of Papuans or New Guineans. As a result of the committee’s recommendations, the Australian Government introduced a broad scheme providing compensation for deaths, injury and loss of property that were ‘directly or indirectly connected with the war’. [61]

A ‘New Deal for the Colonies: Anticipating Self-rule?

Post war, Hogbin concentrated his research on one village, Busama, located on the upper part of the west coast of the Huon Gulf, north-eastern New Guinea. It was located in an area that was for the better part of 18 months at the ‘front line’ and for many months under Japanese occupation — where the indigenous people had been ‘accused of treachery’ by ANGAU officers. Initially, he was asked by the Army to investigate the village of Busama ‘to see whether the people had been guilty of treachery’. [62] He argued that such conceptions were irrelevant. Such legal advice was provided by Justice F. B. Phillips (previously Chief Judge in New Guinea), who pointed out that it was impossible for Papuans and New Guineans in war to distinguish between a de facto and a de jure government, and acts such as leading Japanese soldiers along tracks did not make them collaborators. In spite of the demands of war work, Hogbin continued to pursue his ethnographic interests: culture contact, changing society and enlightened, anthropologically informed colonial administration. [63] Camilla Wedgwood commented on the value of Hogbin’s research: ‘with his long stay at Busama…[he] has collected invaluable material on pretty well all aspects of the effects of the war on native life’. [64]

At war’s end, Hogbin remained attached to the Australia army’s directorate civil of research and civil affairs as an instructor in the School for Civil Affairs (later the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) when it moved its location from Duntroon in Canberra to Mosman in Sydney) and the Pacific Territories Research Council, which, Conlon and his colleagues anticipated, would oversee all research in Papua New Guinea and the South-West Pacific. [65] Both presented direct threats to the functions of the Anthropology department at the University of Sydney, and were a danger to the long-term viability of Elkin’s department. [66]

Hogbin and his colleague Camilla Wedgwood were consulted extensively during the framing of the Papua New Guinea Provisional Administration Bill, which was adopted in July 1945. In a letter to Elkin, Hogbin gloated that he had written Ward’s speech — often called a ‘New Deal for Papua New Guinea’. He informed Elkin that Ward ‘spoke very well indeed, adapting the material he had…from me to the needs of the occasion’. [67] Ward referred to the failure of past governments and invoked the theme of indebtedness and promised New Guinean advancement. In fact, much of this argument can be found in the pamphlet Development and Welfare in the Western Pacific (1943). [68] The common element, and one shared by most of the DORCA members who were interested in the colonial question, was that development — economic, social and political — was an imperative but that it should occur at a pace to which New Guineans (and colonised peoples generally) could readily adapt. In fact, it could be said that they did anticipate independence movements as had occurred in some African colonies, and possibly might never concern Papua and New Guinea. [69]

In some ways, it can be concluded that Hogbin’s career reached an apogee: he was the applied anthropologist par excellence, conducting research, providing what we now call evidence-based research informing policy; he provided not only policy advice but also made recommendations on how policy should be implemented. [70] He was an adviser to the minister (Ward) and to the Administrator of Papua and New Guinea, J. K. Murray. Hogbin’s opinion was sought on a range of government policies. His optimism and enthusiasm were fired by the appointment of Murray, whom he considered ‘first class’, to the position of Administrator. On Murray’s appointment, Hogbin told his friend and mentor Raymond Firth, he ‘can claim a big share’ as he ‘first suggested his name to the Minister and lobbied like hell in Canberra on his behalf’, there was the possibility ‘we’ll get somewhere’ in reforming colonial policy and practice. [71]

Hogbin and his colleagues were not the only ones who wrote on the need to change and reform colonial policy and practice. A number of interested individuals and groups including missionaries outlined their ideas for a new order in the colonial governance of ‘Native Peoples’ in Melanesia and the South-West Pacific in general. Included in this is the debate occurring in San Francisco on the matter of colonial governance and the problem of trusteeship. [72] Many stressed the sense of indebtedness and moral duty to assist in the development of Papua New Guinea. But it was the group formed by Conlon that had the greatest influence on the development and formulation of colonial policy in Papua New Guinea in the immediate postwar period. [73] Notwithstanding, some commentators and historians observe that there was no formal policy as such; rather it was a policy developed by J. K. Murray, taking his ‘guidelines from Ministerial statements to Parliament and the press’. [74]

In recognition of Hogbin’s long field experience in Melanesia, Firth had asked him to prepare a report on anthropological research in Melanesia preparatory to outlining a research program for the new Department of Anthropology at the Australian National University (ANU). [75] Hogbin, keen to distance himself from Elkin, successfully applied for an ANU (travelling) scholarship, which enabled him to spend six months in England in 1948. It meant considerable financial sacrifice, but it was a welcome respite. [76] Hogbin continued to seek employment overseas. He told Firth he ‘might apply for the advertised’ Oxford lectureship and asked if Firth would act as a referee; [77] he did not ‘expect to get it as Fortes tells me they don’t want anyone senior’; nor did he ‘really…want to go to Oxford’. [78] His ambivalence and indecision are characteristic of his approach to other possible academic positions. He told an acquaintance, who did the maps and diagrams for Transformation Scene, that he had ‘been told I can have the advertised readership to found a dept [department] at Manchester for the asking. I am not asking. Auckland is also advertising for a (new) professorship. But I don’t think I am interested in that either.’ [79]

Choices: Leaving the Academy?

Hogbin entertained the possibility of accepting a position in the ASOPA, but he was not sure whether he wanted to abandon an established academic position. Hogbin was however considered for a position at the ANU. Firth, an official academic advisor, was asked for advice and an assessment of potential candidates for the anthropology professorship in the School of Pacific Studies. [80] Firth dismissed the possibility of Elkin, who was ‘an Australian specialist’ and not suitable; ‘someone rather different is needed at Canberra’. Hogbin, on the other hand, deservedvery serious consideration…He has put in years of research in New Guinea and the Solomons and is a first rate field worker. His relations with Government also appear to be very good. I know him very well and have a very great respect for his capacity. However, my feeling is that he would not be the best person to occupy the Chair of Anthropology, and be responsible for the ultimate standard of teaching and research.’ [81] S. F. Nadel was appointed Foundation Professor. Hogbin and Stanner were offered readerships. It was unclear how much notice Sydney needed but Hogbin anticipated starting from 1 January 1950. [82] It is unclear why Hogbin withdrew his application. Possibly the key factor was a concern about his superannuation and pension, which were tied to the New South Wales Public Service and were not transferable to the ANU. [83] A permanent position at Sydney in those circumstances far outweighed what was offered at the ANU. There was also potential conflict with Stanner. It might have been personal, as Firth hinted, which stemmed from their time together at DORCA. [84] On the other hand, he might have decided to wait out Elkin’s retirement — due in five years — with the hope he could possibly engineer someone who was more congenial to his interests and demands. Hogbin had little interest in the position, as he disliked the administrative side and the responsibilities that went with a professorship. J. A. Barnes, who replaced Elkin, noted that Hogbin ‘held fast to his policy of using his position as Reader to steer clear of administrative tasks as much as possible’. [85]

When Elkin retired in 1955, Hogbin realised that he would not be offered the chair, if only because of serious opposition from Elkin himself. But neither did Hogbin want the chair and the administrative responsibilities inseparable from a professorship. So, he set himself the task to foil Elkin’s chosen successor, which he accomplished. [86] British born John Arundel Barnes was appointed. It was a satisfactory outcome for Hogbin but Barnes’s appointment had nothing to do with his machinations. [87] It was also an opportunity for renewal and reinvigoration and the setting of a new direction for what had become a moribund, narrow and stagnating department. Barnes worked hard in the interests of change and betterment, but without material assistance from Hogbin, who continued to evade administrative responsibility and refused to develop new undergraduate courses, content to continue delivering the same ageing lectures. [88] Dispirited by the under-funding and the general lack of academic achievement at Sydney University, Barnes was appointed to the Chair of Anthropology at the ANU following the sudden and unexpected death of S. F. Nadel in 1956. [89]

The successful applicant for the vacant Sydney chair was W. H. (Bill) Geddes, and again Hogbin interfered with the selection process from the sidelines. He opposed the appointment of Geddes and they did not get on. [90] But Geddes did usher in a period of stability, which enabled Hogbin to settle down to teaching—something he enjoyed—and writing. [91]

Jeremy Beckett, who interviewed Hogbin in the early 1980s, told me that he tried on several occasions to get Hogbin to talk about his war experiences but to little avail. In his interview with Beckett, Hogbin played down his role in the formulation of Ward’s ‘New Deal’ and skirted over his war work including the work of DORCA and his time with them as well as the Barry Compensation Commission. Yet the war can be seen as a high point for an anthropologist who was interested in applied anthropology. He was an advisor to two colonial administrations both during and after the war. It was a time he was most involved at a senior government level in the formulation and implementation of colonial policy — a role he continued after the war: ‘for some years I was advising [the Administrator, J. K. Murray] on anthropological matters…after Murray’s retirement’. [92] In 1949 he ceased regular field trips to Papua New Guinea. He did not return to Papua New Guinea except for short visits in the 1970s.

The multiple opportunities offered during and after the war, particularly the ANU readership — all of which he declined — suggest a stalled career and a man who wanted no further adventure or political involvement. This might have been in part due to the impact the Cold War had on Australian political life and thinking. He might have become disillusioned with the Realpolitik of colonial politics. He remained Reader at the University of Sydney until his retirement in 1969. He was, however, productive, publishing a number of monographs on his research in Wogeo. [93] On his retirement, he took an adjunct professorial position at Macquarie University, where he taught one day a week (1970-1979).


[1H. Hogbin to Registrar, University of Sydney, 18 March 1929, University Administration, File G3/187, University of Sydney Archives. His birth certificate names him Herbert William Hogbin, b. 17 December 1904. Against how the rest of the family pronounced their name Hogbin, he pronounced it ‘Hobben’. Personal communication, Rosemary Stanley (Hogbin), 1 April 1994.

[2Hogbin to Taylor, 10 September 1934, Hogbin Papers [hereinafter HP], University of Sydney Archives.

[3Hogbin took his lecture notes with him to Rennell and Ontong Java, where they fell overboard, but he successfully retrieved them. They are deposited in the Hogbin Papers, University of Sydney Archives (hereafter HP).

[4Jeremy Beckett and Geoffrey Gray, ’Hogbin, Herbert Ian Priestley (1904–1989)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hogbin-herbert-ian-priestley-12644/text22783

[5D. J. Mulvaney, ’Warner, William Lloyd (1898–1970)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/warner-william-lloyd-8987/text15819

[6Ronald Cohen, Charles William Merton Hart, 1905-1976. American Anthropologist (New Series), vol. 79 (1), 1977, 11-112.

[7D. J. Mulvaney, ’Stanner, William Edward (Bill) (1905–1981)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/stanner-william-edward-bill-15541/text26753

[9Piddington to CWM Hart, 31 March 1955. Copy in authors possession courtesy of Kenneth Piddington. Donald F Thomson (Dip Anthropology, 1928) and Phyllis Kaberry (BA, 1933) appear to be on the edge of this group. Camilla Wedgwood was a lecturer in the department.

[10David Parkin, An Interview with Raymond Firth, Current Anthropology, Vol. 29, No. 2 (Apr., 1988), 327-341

[11Regna Darnell, The professionalization of American anthropology: A case study in the sociology of knowledge. Soc. Sci. Inform. (1971), 10, 83-103; History of Anthropology in Historical Perspective, Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 6 (1977), 399-417.

[12Geoffrey Gray, A Cautious Silence: the politics of Australian anthropology, (Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 2007), 1-29. See also ‘Dividing Oceania: transnational anthropology, 1928-30’, in Regna Darnell and Frederic W Gleach (Eds.), Histories of Anthropology Annual, Volume 6, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2010), 48-65.

[13G.A.V. Stanley, ‘Report on the geological reconnaissance of Rennell Island, British Solomon Islands Protectorate, British Solomon Islands Report for 1927, Appendix A. Annual Colonial Reports, No. 1421, 13-26. H.M. Stationery Office, London, 1929.

[14H Ian Hogbin, “Polynesian” colonies in Melanesia, Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol. 49 (194), 1940: 202.

[15Edwin E. Embree to Orme Masson, 27 May 1926, Elkin Papers [hereinafter EP], University of Sydney Archives, 155/4/1/1.

[16 Hogbin sent the raw data to Harry Lionel Shapiro, assistant curator of physical anthropology, American Museum. Hogbin to Shapiro, 15 July 1932. HP. See H.L. Shapiro, The physical characteristics of the Ontong Javanese: a contribution to the study of the non-Melanesian elements in Melanesia. Anthropological papers of the American Museum of Natural History, vol. 33 (3), 1933: 227-278; ‘Are the Ontong Javanese Polynesian?’, Oceania, vol. 3 (4), 1933: 367-376. See Gray, A Cautious Silence, 2007, 52-53, for a description of the method used by Hogbin.

[17Hogbin to Radcliffe-Brown, 20 May 1928. EP: 159/4/1/49. Besides Law and Order (1934), Hogbin wrote a number of scholarly articles on Ontong Java, including: ‘Ontong Java’, The Australian Geographer, vol. 1 (2), 1929, 86-91; ‘Transition Rites at Ontong Java’, Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol. 39 (154 & 155), 1930, 94-112; 201-220; ‘The Problem of Depopulation in Melanesia as Applied to Ontong Java’, Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol. 19 (153), 1931, 43-66; ‘The Sexual Life of the Natives of Ontong Java’, Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol. 40 (157), March 1931, 23-34; ‘Culture Contact in the Solomon Islands’, Oceania, vol. 4 (2), 1934, 233-67.

[18Hogbin to Radcliffe-Brown, 7 July 1930. HP.

[19For a contemporary analysis of the causes of depopulation see WHR Rivers (ed.), Essays on the Depopulation of Melanesia, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1922; also Hogbin, The problem of depopulation, 1931. For a review of the problem of depopulation see T. P. Bayliss-Smith, Ontong Java: depopulation and repopulation. In Pacific Atoll Populations, V. Carroll (ed.), (University of Hawai’i Press, 1975), 417-484; also Richard Slobodin, W.H.R. Rivers, Pioneer Anthropologist, (Sutton Publishing, 1997 (1978), 169-179.

[20Hogbin quoted in CM Wedgwood, Review: Law and Order in Polynesia, Oceania, vol 5, 1, (1934), 117.

[21William Seagal, Primitive Law and Professor Malinowski, American Anthropologist, vol. 39, 2 (1937), 280.

[22Hogbin to Taylor, 10 September 1934, HP.

[23Jeremy Beckett and Geoffrey Gray, ‘Hogbin, Herbert Ian Priestley (1904–1989)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography. Volume 17 (Melbourne, 2007), 539.

[24Hogbin to Firth, 16 July 1937, Archive of Sir Raymond Firth, British Library of Political and Economic Science, London School of Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science [hereinafter FIRTH], 8/1/52.

[25Hogbin to Firth, 3 May 1938, Reference for HI Hogbin (application to University of Johannesburg), 18 March 1937, FIRTH8/2/2.

[26See list of publications in Fisher Library card catalogue, University of Sydney.

[27He had not returned to the Solomon Islands after 1943 and was ‘therefore in no position to prepare a major revision…and bring it up to date’. H. Ian Hogbin, Experiments in Civilization: The effects of European culture on a native community of the Solomon Islands (London, 1939), xiv.

[28Ibid., xiv.

[29Ibid., 3.

[30Cassandra Pybus, The Devil and James McAuley (St Lucia, Queensland, 1999), 9–10; also Alan Barcan, Radical Students: The old left at Sydney University (Melbourne, 2002).

[31Tigger Wise, The Self-Made Anthropologist: A life of A. P. Elkin (Sydney, 1985), 138.

[32LR Hiatt, Ian Hogbin (1904-1989), Oceania vol. 60 (2), 1989, 159.

[33‘I do detest him [Elkin] so.’ Hogbin to Mary Turner Shaw, 3 June 1949, HP.

[34For further discussion on morale and the NMC, see John Pomeroy, Morale on the Homefront in Australia During the Second World War, PhD thesis, University of Sydney, 1995.

[35Civilian Morale in North Queensland (Report by Dr R. D. Wright, Professor of Physiology in the University Melbourne, and Dr Ian Hogbin, Lecturer in Anthropology in the University of Sydney, to Major A. A. Conlon, Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Committee on National Morale), 1 February 1943, National Archives of Australia, Canberra [hereinafter NAA], A5954/1, 328/21.

[36Pomeroy, Morale on the Homefront, 263.

[37McPhee, ‘Pansy’, 50–71; Geoffrey Gray, ‘“The next focus of power to fall under the spell of this little gang”: Anthropology and Australia’s post war policy in Papua New Guinea’, War & Society, 14:2 (1996), 101–17.

[38Mitchell was High Commissioner from 21 July 1942 to 1 January 1945.

[39H.Ian Hogbin, ‘Native Councils and Native Courts in the Solomon Islands’, Oceania, 14:2 (1944), 257–83. Hogbin was awarded the 1944 Royal Anthropological Institute’s Wellcome Medal for this essay.

[40Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) Archives, MS 185, item 204.

[41H. Ian Hogbin, ‘Notes and Instructions to Native Administrators in the British Solomon Islands’, Oceania, 16:1 (1945), 61–9.

[42H Ian Hogbin, Big Gela and Olevuga-Vatilau Sub-districts, Florida. Report to Colonel O. C. Noel, Resident Commissioner, BSIP, October 1943.

[43Hogbin to Elkin, 18 September 1943, HP.

[44Graeme Sligo, Backroom Boys, Blue Sky Publishing (Sydney), 2012.

[45Jeremy Beckett, Conversations with Ian Hogbin (Sydney, 1989), 26. Hogbin to Wedgwood, 20 April 1944, Wedgwood Papers, NLA, MS 483, box 1.

[46J. D. Legge, Australian Colonial Policy: A survey of native administration and European development in Papua (Sydney, 1956), 185.

[47See Diary, Native Labour Survey, March to June 1944. HP.

[48Hogbin to Wedgwood, 20 April 1944, Wedgwood Papers, NLA, MS 483, box 1.

[49Report on the activities of ANGAU in respect to native relief and rehabilitation in the Territory of Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea February 1942 – September 1944, NAA, AS 13/35, NN ANGAU.

[50Report of an investigation of native labour in New Guinea carried out on instructions from the Director of Research by Lieutenant-Colonel Ian Hogbin during the period March to June 1944, n.d. [22 pages.]. Copy in HP.

[51Hogbin, Transformation Scene, 9.

[52W. E. H. Stanner, ‘ANGAU’, November 1944, AWM, 54/80/2/1; cf. Lucy Mair, Australia in New Guinea, Second ed. (Melbourne, 1970), 198–218; Neville Robinson, Villagers at War: Some Papua New Guinea experiences in World War II (Canberra, 1979); Yukio Toyoda and Hank Nelson (eds), The Pacific War in Papua New Guinea: Memories and realities (Tokyo, 2006); Ian Downs comments on these changes in The Australian Trusteeship in Papua New Guinea, 1945–1975 (Canberra, 1980), 15, 38–9.

[53Alan Powell, The Third Force. ANGAU’s New Guinea war, 1942–1946 (Melbourne, 2003), 194–8; W. E. H. Stanner, The South Seas in Transition: A study of post-war rehabilitation and reconstruction in three British Pacific dependencies (Sydney, 1953); also Hank Nelson, ‘Payback: Australian compensation to wartime Papua New Guinea’, in Yukio Toyoda and Hank Nelson, The Pacific War in Papua New Guinea (Tokyo, 2006), 320–48; Peter Ryan, ‘The Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU)’, in KS Inglis (ed.), The History of Melanesia: Second Waigani Seminar (Port Moresby/Canberra, 1969), pp. 531–48; also Geoffrey Gray, The coming of the war to the territories: forced labour and broken promises, Unpublished paper presented to Remembering the War in New Guinea, 19–21 October 2000, Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

[54The natives of the Salamaua Coast, a preliminary report by Lieutenant-Colonel Ian Hogbin forwarded to Brigadier Cleland for perusal (7 October 1944). Copy in HP.

[55For a report of the conference, see NAA, MP742/1, 274/1/246.

[56Hiromutsu Iwamoto, ‘Patrol Reports: Sources for assessing war damage in Papua New Guinea’, in Toyoda and Nelson, The Pacific War in Papua New Guinea, p. 349.

[57‘Compensation to Natives’, NAA, MP742/1-5/3/167.

[58Legge, Australian Colonial Policy, pp. 85–7; also Hogbin, Transformation Scene, 19–21.

[59Hogbin to Patience, 14 May 1944; Hogbin to Grand, 30 March 1944; Conlon to Camp Comdt, LHQ, 1 November 1944, NAA, MP 742/1, 274/1/245. Hogbin ‘fitted’ Read for work in New Guinea by advising him to study Malinowski’s Coral Gardens and Their Magic and Argonauts of the Western Pacific; Williams’ report on the Vialala Madness; and Father J. Murphy’s Book of Pidgin English. For Read see Gilbert Herdt, Kenneth E. Read Anthropologist, Oceania, Vol. 67, No. 1 (Sep., 1996), 1-6.

[60Nelson, ‘Payback’, 341. See also Hogbin, Transformation Scene, pp. 19–22.

[61Nelson, ‘Payback’, 342. The recommendations of the committee can be found in Hogbin, Transformation Scene, pp. 20–1.

[62Beckett, Conversations with Ian Hogbin, 32–5. Neville Robinson has produced an oral history of Busama during the war. Robinson, Villagers at War, 128–64.

[63Aside from Hogbin’s Transformation Scene, KE Read’s report on the Markham Valley is the only anthropological publication dealing with the effects of war on New Guineans. Read wrote up the results of his research as an MA thesis. Kenneth E. Read, ‘Native Thought and the War in the Pacific: A study of the effects of the Pacific War on a native community of the Markham Valley, Australian Mandated Territory of New Guinea’, MA thesis, University of Sydney, 1946; Read, ‘Effects of the War in the Markham Valley, New Guinea’, Oceania, 18:1 (1946), 95–116.

[64Camilla Wedgwood to Elkin, 9 February 1946, EP, 160/4/1/80. This resulted in H. Ian Hogbin, Transformation Scene: The changing culture of a New Guinea village (London, 1951).

[65Geoffrey Gray, ‘A chance to be of some use to my country’: WEH Stanner during World War II, in Melinda Hinkson and Jeremy Beckett (eds.), An Appreciation of Difference: WEH Stanner and Aboriginal Australia, Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2008, pp. 27-43.

[66Stanner to Elkin, 22 September 1944, EP, 197/4/2/573.

[67Hogbin to Elkin, 22 July 1945, EP, 197/4/2/573. Elkin looked upon the ‘announced intentions’ of Ward as ‘indeed promising. I hope there is no retraction.’ Elkin to Hogbin, 27 September 1945, HP.

[68H. Ian Hogbin and Camilla Wedgwood, Development and Welfare in the Western Pacific (Sydney, 1943), 1–31. See also Julius Stone, Colonial Trusteeship in Transition (Sydney, 1944), 1–32.

[69It placed colonised people—forever in a state of transition—‘in the waiting room of history’. See Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial thought and historical difference (Princeton, NJ, 2000); also Amit Chaudhuri, ‘In the Waiting Room of History’, London Review of Books, 24 June 2004, 3–8.

[70H. I. Hogbin, ‘Our Native Policy’, Australian Quarterly, 15 (1943), 100–8; H. I. Hogbin, ‘Developing New Guinea and the Future of the Natives’, Australian Journal of Science, 5:5 (1953), 133–5.

[71Hogbin to Firth, 22 September 1945, FIRTH, 8/1/52.

[72See, for example, Huntington Gilchrist, ‘Trusteeship and the Colonial System’, Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science, 22:2 (1947), 95–109. See also [H. E. Hurst], The Pacific Islanders: After the war what? (Geelong, Vic, 1944); Cyril Belshaw, Island Administration in the South West Pacific: Government and reconstruction in New Caledonia, the New Hebrides, and the British Solomon Islands (London, 1950); W. E. H. Stanner, The South Seas in Transition: A study of post-war rehabilitation and reconstruction in three British Pacific dependencies (Sydney, 1953).

[73Cf. Stanner, The South Seas in Transition, 118. Stanner was critical of the ‘new deal’, declaring that ‘the policy adumbrated was inherently almost unadministrable in the concrete circumstances of application, and there was undoubtedly an initial misconception of the scale, the intricacy and the phasing of the “new deal” task’.

[74Downs, The Australian Trusteeship, 37.

[75Firth to Elkin, 22 March 1948, EP, 174/4/2/178. See Ian Hogbin, ‘Anthropological research in the Pacific’, n.d., ANU Archives, Series 19, General files, file, H. Ian Hogbin.

[76Hogbin to Firth, 3 December 1947, FIRTH8/1/52.

[77Hogbin to Firth, 11 January 1947, FIRTH8/1/52.

[78Hogbin to Firth, 31 March 1947, FIRTH8/1/52.

[79Hogbin to Shaw, 18 January 1949, Hogbin to Shaw, 12 February 1949, HP. Max Gluckman was awarded the readership, which was upgraded to a professorship. David Mills, Difficult Folk? A political history of social anthropology (New York, 2008), 101. Ralph Piddington was appointed to the Auckland position.

[80Firth nominated Audrey Richards, Meyer Fortes and S. F. Nadel as the only candidates for the position.

[81Firth to ANU Vice-Chancellor, 25 January 1949, FIRTH7/5/8.

[82Hogbin to Firth, 19 August 1949, FIRTH7/1/12.

[83Hogbin to Hohnen (Registrar), 15 November 1949, FIRTH7/1/12.

[84Firth to Nadel, 3 December 1949, FIRTH7/1/12. See Geoffrey Gray, ‘“A chance to be of some use to my country”: Stanner during World War II’, in Melinda Hinkson and Jeremy Beckett (eds), An Appreciation of Difference: WEH Stanner and Aboriginal Australia (Canberra, 2008), 33–41.

[85Barnes, Humping My Drum, 273.

[86Geoffrey Gray and Doug Munro, ‘Australian Aboriginal Anthropology at the Crossroads: Finding a Successor to A. P. Elkin, 1955’, The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 22 (3), 2011, 351-369.

[87Geoffrey Gray and Doug Munro, ‘Australian Aboriginal Anthropology at the Crossroads: Finding a Successor to A. P. Elkin, 1955’, The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 22 (3), 2011, 351-369.

[88Barnes, Humping My Drum, 262.

[89Geoffrey Gray and Doug Munro, ‘The Department was in some disarray’: the politics of choosing a successor to S.F. Nadel, 1957, in Regna Darnell and Frederic W. Gleach (eds.), Histories of Anthropology Annual, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014.

[90Beckett, Conversations with Ian Hogbin, 31.

[91H. Ian Hogbin, A Guadalcanal Society: The Kaoka speakers (New York, 1964); Kinship and Marriage in a New Guinea Village (London, 1964).

[92Beckett, Conversations with Ian Hogbin, 31.

[93H. Ian Hogbin, The Island of Menstruating Men: Religion in Wogeo, New Guinea (Scranton, Pa, 1980); The Leaders and the Led: Social control in Wogeo, New Guinea (Melbourne, 1987). There is also a Festschrift: L. R. Hiatt and Chandra Jayawardena (eds), Anthropology in Oceania: Essays in honour of Ian Hogbin (Sydney), 1971.