My research activities focus on colonial book history, especially in East and West Africa and the South Pacific islands. One important aspect of print culture development in the British Empire was the formation of Literature Bureaus, each of which played an important part in encouraging both crea...
My research activities focus on colonial book history, especially in East and West Africa and the South Pacific islands. One important aspect of print culture development in the British Empire was the formation of Literature Bureaus, each of which played an important part in encouraging both creative writing and the habit of reading. I have included here an article, "The Literature Bureau: African Influence in Papua New Guinea," which outlines the ways in which the notion of the Literature Bureau spread from Africa to the South Pacific. Much of the early university curriculum in tropical colonies was intentionally shaped by foreign change agents in order to encourage a first generation of writers to write the new nation into being. "Forget Beowulf to Virginia Woolf: Learning to Be a Writer in Papua New Guinea" outlines how that process played out in Papua New Guinea.
I am fascinated by the ways in which book genres travel from one country to another. In “’Who are You Now?’ Cultural Re-inscription in Indigenous Captivity Narratives,” I looked at the ways in which captivity narratives from the American west set a generic pattern that was used in Australia and in Canada by aboriginal writers: not to describe how white women were abducted, but how Aboriginal and First Nations children were kidnapped and placed in residential schools and mission centres.
One of the things that I have discovered in studying colonial book history is the important role of women’s clubs in developing literacy for women and girls. The Women’s Institutes (WI) began in Canada, was taken to England and finally the Empire. In many parts of the British Empire, the WI fostered the creation of indigenous Women's Clubs, which were meant to assist the personal and civic (if racially segregated) development of women and girls in the colonies. I have developed a website that outlines the contributions of the Alberta Women’s Institutes to the early development of the province and am working on a book that addresses this topic.
One cannot study colonial book history without paying attention to the technologies of the book. In recent years, this has led me to think about ways that new communication technologies are introduced in society, and how those technologies are used and received. In 2006, I revised and expanded the introductory chapter, "The Internet in Context," for the second edition of widely-used textbook Psychology and the Internet. Recently, I have been engaged in joint research on the effects of new technologies. "Video Game Play as Nightmare Protection: A Preliminary Inquiry in Military Gamer," examines the salutary effects experienced by soldiers who play shooter video games on a regular basis.