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Locating an Australia-wide anthropology.

The collection emerged from a conference' of the South East Australia Network of Anthropologists (SEANA), a title that expresses our regional ethnographic focus, but that conceals our larger ambitions. (2) What nudged us into action was the conviction that ethnographic work based in the south of the continent is relevant to the recent public disputes about conditions in Aboriginal communities. Work among Aboriginal people in the south of the continent is relevant because it has always attended to the disruptions and changes to what anthropologists had mostly represented as a coherent, unified entity called Aboriginal culture. Now that this entity is being recognised as conceptually problematic (Sullivan 2006), work that dealt with its earlier challenges merits revisiting. In what is often called 'settled Australia'--meaning places settled earlier than others--Aborigines' relationships with colonial forces came into ethnographic focus and observations were not limited to 'cultural change'; evidence of Aboriginal people's dismay at their colonised conditions, of systematic responses to white employers and fellow residents of country towns, as well as anxiety about cultural loss, was documented. For instance, one theme in Dianne Barwick's research was Aboriginal people's awareness of the need to actively participate in their own future (Barwick 1972). Here also the boundaries between Aboriginal and white society, sometimes porous, sometimes impenetrable and sometimes violent, have been an insistent focus of ethnographic attention. Throughout the continent relationships between anthropologists, government officials and government policy were a constant (Gray 2007), but they were not regarded as matters for anthropological interpretation in the north. In the south the effects of these relationships inevitably came into focus.

A further motivation for the conference was dissatisfaction with the ethnographic and geographical reach of Australianist anthropology. Not only is it almost entirely confined to Indigenous studies, but these are predominantly identified with the north of the continent where ethnographic research is mostly conducted in what are known as 'remote Aboriginal communities'. The combination of the three terms, 'remote', 'Aboriginal' and 'community' are among the tropes that congeal conventional thought within the heavy baggage of an earlier era of anthropology. (3) The ongoing unquestioned usage of this phrase threatens to fix racial boundaries, exceptionalism and the holism of classical ethnography into the very foundation of our thinking. If we want to conceive of Aborigines as full participants in a modern citizenry, it is necessary to discard the established language that purports so neatly to describe the troubling entity that seems to be there before our very eyes--the 'remote Aboriginal community'. We want to draw attention to anthropologies in Australia that are located in places that are not particularly remote, not solely or unequivocally Aboriginal, and where the notion of 'the Aboriginal community' has become problematic. Other people are important in remote places, and further, Aborigines are everywhere in Australia. Ideally, we would like to see the geographical division between different kinds of anthropology dissolved.

It was in 1939 that Malinowski said that the anthropologist 'is now forced to restate his problem and recast his methods' because cultures everywhere are 'under conditions of change' (Malinowski 1939). While it may appear that problems and methods have been radically recast since then, there are tenacious and troublesome ways that the discipline continues to frame the lives of contemporary Aboriginal Australians in obsolete language. While extreme and invasive 'conditions of change' have characterised Aboriginal lives since anthropology began in Australia, anthropologists have always privileged the relationship with an original 'culture' as the sine qua non of Aboriginal people, even when giving recognition to their colonised conditions. We are suggesting that the minor tradition of Australian ethnography, conducted among Aborigines who were most and earliest affected by colonial forces, pioneered approaches that are relevant across the continent. By problematising familiar tropes, insisting that Aboriginal culture is within history, and analysing structures of governance, work in the south-east could inspire a more Australianist anthropology. As Aborigines in the north are subjected to a more aggressive assimilation policy, responses of those who experienced earlier forms of assimilation become relevant.

We confess that the potential of an 'anthropology of the south' has not been realised, for a number of reasons. First, many south-east Australian ethnographers continued to nurture anthropologists' 'own investment in preserving zones of "tradition," in stressing social reproduction over random change, cosmology over chaos' (Comaroff and Comaroff 1992). This work often privileged continuity and defended the cultural 'authenticity' of 'non-traditional' Aboriginal people, thus remaining captive of the idea that Aborigines are to be defined always and only by way of 'their culture'. We are not denying the importance of cultural traditions, but deny that Aborigines are any more captive of theirs than any other people--including anthropologists. The contemporary consciousness, self-imaginings, and experiences of Aboriginal people, their current cultural specificities, cannot be elucidated only by reference to their 'other' origins. While it is well recognised that culturalism can be a contemporary form of racism (Abu-Lughod 1991; Barker 1990; Taguieff 2001), it remains acceptable to anchor modern Aborigines to an epistemology and ontology that stem from tribalism and small-scale community life (Austin-Broos 2009; Sutton 2009). Further, as Povinelli (2002) has shown, the bias towards culturalism feeds into the state's interests in defining different subjects as always in need of normalising. While new ways of conceiving and practising Indigeneity have been emerging everywhere in Australia since first settlement, there remains a tendency to privilege those differences that were generated in a tribal past. Thus, instead of reporting on cultural characteristics, this collection shifts attention to the insistent presence of borders between cultural/social worlds and the dynamic process of their reproduction over time.

A related reason that southern ethnographic work has previously failed to realise its potential is that it has always played second fiddle to studies of Aboriginal communities in northern Australia. Some of us are convinced that the centre of gravity of Australian Indigenous anthropology needs to shift, not merely to where most Aborigines live in urban and rural areas, but also away from an exclusive concern with Indigenous exceptionalism, and from dealing exclusively with Indigenous people. Why, for instance, do the white residents of the 'remote community' elude the ethnographer's attention? With the notable exception of Morris (Morris 2001; Carrington and Morris, 1991), why was it left to criminologists to explore questions about the disproportionate engagement of Aborigines with the criminal justice system? Why have so few anthropologists provided insights into Aboriginal rural labour? And why has the newly discovered realm of 'the intercultural' ignored numerous studies of cultural interaction in the south-east, instead speaking of 'anthropology's apparent difficulty in making these "intercultural" circumstances analytically tractable' (Hinkson and Smith, 2005).

Australian ethnographers have occasionally ventured along different paths, for instance into studies of country towns or urban and immigrant communities, and a few ethnographic studies conducted in the north have examined interaction with state representatives, state functionaries and state-imposed conditions of existence (Collmann 1979; Edmunds 1990; Lea 2008; Trigger 1992). But the lure of the supposedly radical Other, the exception, the remote north, has continued to trump attempts to open the discipline to other aspects of Australian society. Thus, there is an entrenched public perception of anthropology as a kind of cultural archaeology. Our discipline is, after all, where the expertise on Native Title is located and many students are being trained by anthropologists to interpret Aboriginal traditions in pursuit of such Title to land. The main aim of this collection is to expand the field of Australian anthropology by demonstrating that work in the south-east can offer fresh perspectives. (4)


It is important to recognise that SEANA's endeavours have a history, and recollections of the Department of Anthropology at Sydney University in the 1970s will set the scene. (5) Social anthropology and Australian pre-history were then comfortably partnered in one department, creating an intellectual and political climate in which research into living Aboriginal traditions was linked with the search for material evidence of indigenous prehistory, that is, unwritten history. (6) Ancient remains and autochthonous people were studied in attempts to understand pre-European human life on this continent. Different methods were used, but with similar aims. The walls of the reading room were decorated with art and artefacts that represented and symbolised ancient culture, illustrating the complementary nature of the two approaches to an objectified domain. (7) Les Hiatt introduced social anthropology students to the complex and intricate ways Indigenous people had constructed their social worlds. His psychoanalytic interpretation of the male initiation ceremony among the Gidjingali people of Maningrida vividly exemplified the radical alterity of Australians (as Aborigines were once known). The intricacies of moieties, subsections and marriage systems were difficult to grasp in the abstract, but provided marvellous insights for anyone undertaking fieldwork in northern Australia.

Then there were Jeremy Beckett's lectures that drew on a budding post-colonial critique (Asad 1973), on studies of pastoral Australia (Bean 1956), and on his own ethnographic work in western NSW (2004 [1958]), to explore Indigenous people's experiences from positions both within and outside pastoral society. A memorable feature of Beckett's course was the Wilcannia song-writer and folk-singer Dougie Young for whom the significance of the boundary between white and Aboriginal social realms was vividly apparent. Youngie Doug, as he sometimes called himself in a satirical reference to police documentation where surnames came first, evoked Aboriginal conditions with insight, irony, and sometimes bitterness. He sang:
 Yes, I'm tall, dark and lean. Every place I've been, the white
 man calls me Jack. It's no crime, I'm not ashamed I was born
 with my skin so black.


 Well they gossip in town and they run the boys down 'cause they
 live on wine and beer, But if they'd stop to think, if the boys
 didn't drink, there'd be no fun around here. (8)

These self-perceptions suggested that exciting reflections on social conditions were emerging among Aborigines, revealing an acute awareness of the ideological wedge they were caught in. The knowledge that many other Dougie Youngs were out there, organic Aboriginal intellectuals whose self-consciousness and political awareness remained unrecorded, was intriguing. The available structural frameworks of 'traditional culture' or 'colonialism', seemed inadequate to encompass and understand the human drama of what, for want of a better term, has been called 'race relations' in Australia. Surely this rich realm of Aboriginal experience merited detailed ethnographic attention.

To go back a step, the harmony between pre-history and social anthropology was being disturbed in the 1970s and 1980s by a series of influences--Marxist critiques of colonial history, new approaches from feminist and black rights scholars, and the increasingly powerful voices of Aboriginal people, who were demanding, not cultural revival, but land rights. An international literature argued that cultural practices could not be treated as autonomous, and seminar presenters began to be regularly criticized for failing to recognise either 'history' or 'power'. But local cultural and social dynamics did not readily yield to the burgeoning master narrative of colonial invasion and dispossession, and many ethnographers continued with specific ethnographic studies that remained parochial by ignoring the international literature. New approaches being devised in the 1980s to link local events with global forces had only a marginal influence on Australian anthropology (Taussig 1980; Taussig 1987).

One event in the early 1970s illustrates the political conflict being played out. For one semester, two quite different courses entitled 'Aboriginal Politics' were presented, one inside Sydney University and the other in adjacent Redfern. Les Hiatt's course on the intricate politics within traditional Aboriginal societies was part of the anthropology degree, and the lectures were delivered between 10 and 11am, three mornings a week in the Wallace Theatre. Across City Road, at what was known as the Free University, the charismatic young Aboriginal activist Gary Foley was also delivering a course called 'Aboriginal Politics' between 10 and 11 am, three mornings a week. This course focused on the emerging struggle for Land Rights. Les had no objection to Gary's lectures themselves, but was upset by what appeared to be deliberate disrespect in putting them on at the same time as his own, as if this was a zero sum contest. Les said, 'Gary Foley is not interested in Aboriginal politics'. It is highly likely that Gary said exactly the same thing about Les. (9)

The conflict between Gary Foley's explicit political concerns and Les Hiatt's allegedly exclusively scholarly ones, illustrates the wedge that developed within Aboriginal studies. Research in places called remote, focusing on culturally specific traditions commanded a higher scholarly status than research analyzing state structures and processes, the national economy or colonial history. Work by Ron Berndt and A.P. Elkin that discussed government policy did so using a common-sense vocabulary that did not reflect a well theorized approach or a specifically anthropological one (Berndt 1977; Elkin, 1935). As international anthropology was formulating 'new problems and methods' that could address questions based on a growing awareness of anthropology's limits and blind spots, (10) it was political scientist Charles Rowley who amassed evidence about Australian governments' Indigenous policies and practices. His detailed three volume work, The Destruction of Aboriginal Society, Outcasts in a White Australia, and The Remote Aborigines (Rowley 1970; Rowley 1972a; Rowley 1972b), focused attention on the ways Aborigines had been governed from the beginning of the colonies, very little of which was public knowledge or taught in universities. While this, as well as a great deal of subsequent work by historians, raised insistent questions about how social worlds are reproduced in changed conditions, few anthropologists saw a community's history or past regimes of governance as raising crucial questions for a contemporary ethnography that could 'seek to understand the making of collective worlds' or 'illuminate the endogenous historicity of all social worlds' (Comaroff and Comaroff 1992: 12, 24, emphases added). Historians were dismissed for lacking awareness of the cultural dimensions of historical change (Anderson 1985). Today, anthropological interpretations of Indigenous life worlds do acknowledge colonial history and discuss change, but seldom use an ethnographic approach to examine the specific forces and institutions that continue to shape the subjectivities and social interactions of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Notable exceptions include Povinelli (2002) and Lea (2008).

Certainly, early Australian anthropology differed from its American and British counterparts in the extent of its active engagement with policy and with government attempts to reshape the lives of Indigenous peoples. Elkin in particular was an active advisor on policy. Beckett commented that the work of Elkin's students often read 'as though they were reporting back on the progress of the policy of which he was the architect', the implementation of which he oversaw in his role on the Aboriginal Welfare Board (Beckett 2004). The subsequent reluctance of Australian anthropology and anthropologists to deal with the forces and institutions that have shaped Aboriginal lives may partly stem from the desire to distance the discipline from this earlier work and its association with the colonising forces. But the lack of attention to these forces implies that the world(s) of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people and structures can be understood apart from each other. Oceania's original task, as stated in 1930, was to 'publish the results of research into the "rapidly disappearing" or "changing" native peoples' (Radcliffe-Brown 1930) but the most prolific anthropological writing has not followed this path. Even when rising to the task of 'salvage anthropology', exploration of the political, social and personal causes of the disappearance and reshaping were bracketed out in the majority of anthropological works, as have been the political, social and personal influences of the ethnographer.

When the remote community ethnographer does attend to the state, as Austin-Broos does with thoroughness and care, the domain of the 'remote Aboriginal community' remains to a large degree intact--as 'the Arrernte of Ntaria' (Austin-Broos 2009)." That is, despite the everyday presence of non-Aboriginal people who exercise considerable power in the Hermannsburg community, neither the nature nor the experience of the current borders between the Arrente and their others is analysed as contingent and constructed. In this way the 'remote Aboriginal community' is reproduced although it is remote only in a restricted sense, it is not exclusively Aboriginal, and is certainly not unified as a single community. We need to ask why these remote sites are such privileged domains of ethnographic work in Australia, and how the language used to describe them reproduces them as irremediably Other.

An exclusive focus on the characteristics of traditional Aboriginal society is rare today, and a book like Les Hiatt's Kinship and Conflict (Hiatt 1965), which analysed the intricate internal politics of kinship and marriage in a small indigenous group, would hardly find a publisher. This is not because ethnographers have recognised and incorporated changes to, or the erosion of, the legitimacy of traditional law and ceremony among Aboriginal people. Rather, the ethnographer now analyses how traditional forms continue to shape contemporary Aboriginal social lives under new circumstances. Thus, kinship is no longer a system to be understood in its own right but is a determinant of Aboriginal relations with the economy, or with state institutions, or a barrier to modernity (Merlan 1998). (12) Yet this change is partial. Work in the north tends to seek traditional principles as independent influences on responses to contemporary conditions, as when Musharbash (2010) carefully documents kin-based rules that still determine most marriage partners in Yuendemu. Another prominent example is the deployment of the term 'demand sharing' to show the cultural reasons that Aboriginal people remain embroiled in kinship obligations rather than becoming individualised consumers (Macdonald 2000; Peterson 1993). 'Demand sharing' is a concept developed by Nic Peterson to analyse one aspect of complex patterns of exchange in central Australia. It refers to the obligation to share resources with particular kin. The term is now often used as short-hand to illuminate Aborigines' social plight, rather than analysed as a variable set of practices that is reproduced in particular circumstances for any number of pragmatic, strategic and banal reasons. Jon Altman (2011) has provided an account of how the term has come to typify a dysfunctional cultural propensity. Similarly, endemic violence has been attributed to Aboriginal cultural proclivities (Sutton 2009), inspiring journalists' casual references to that quality (eg. Paul Sheehan in the Sydney Morning Herald 21/9/10). Anthropological terminology and interpretation are here entering the public domain as causal explanations in order to attribute marginalisation to culturally specific practices and values. This reproduces an old practice of seeing Aboriginal people as captives of their traditions after decades of anthropological efforts to overcome racial and cultural determinism. (13)


A.P. Elkin, although known as an arch-conservative, recognized that conditions in south-east Australia required systematic ethnographic studies of the social world that was re-shaping Indigenous societies. He encouraged several of his students to do what he called 'sociological' work among New South Wales Aboriginal people, and under Elkin's editorship, Oceania obligingly published many of their papers (Wise 1985). While also seeking remnants of traditional culture, the titles of these research papers demonstrate that ethnographic attention was beginning to turn to racial boundaries, and to class, social status and the economy of country towns (Bell 1956; Calley 1964; Fink 1957; Reay 1945; Reay 1949; Reay and Sitlington 1948).

Jeremy Beckett's major research project for his MA out of ANU in the 1950s, conducted among rural Aborigines in western NSW, represented a further breakthrough. Rather than seeking the roots of this community in some older cultural world, Beckett used sociological as well as anthropological concepts to analyse the current social dynamics. He examined the working conditions of rural Aboriginal people, the laws they were subjected to, the forms of policing they experienced and their relationships with other local residents, and he later developed Paine's concept of welfare colonialism to good effect (Beckett 1983; Paine 1977). Similar forces were shaping Aborigines' social lives throughout Australia, yet far from being greeted as cutting edge anthropology, Beckett's thesis remained unpublished until it appeared as an Oceania Monograph in 2004. There were others, such as Dianne Barwick (1972) and Fay Gale (1972) both of whom worked among urban Aborigines in Melbourne and Adelaide respectively. Despite their broaching the questions that are now on the public agenda-housing, policing, violence, sexual mores, and systematic concern with governance, racism and the relationship with state institutions--their work sank without leaving much of a trace on the main body of anthropological literature.

Jeremy's student Barry Morris was another path breaker. His powerful 1989 ethnography of the Dhan-Gadi, a rare comprehensive analysis of the development and transformation of colonial relations, was the first, indeed the only work we know of that systematically applied Foucault's theoretical framework to Australian conditions (Morris 1989). Then there was Cowlishaw's work in Bourke (Cowlishaw 1988; Cowlishaw 2004) that demonstrated the continuing significance of the racial divide in Australia. (15) In the 1980s Morris and Cowlishaw both sought to clear paths towards a more comprehensive anthropology that took in questions of race and governance, of ideology and authenticity, focusing on the world within which Aborigines were carving new spaces to exist, not merely as supplicants, and certainly not as inauthentic pretenders to the Indigenous mantle, but asserting changed cultural forms and social imaginings (Cowlishaw and Morris 1997).

Two collections of essays that appeared in 1988, edited by Jeremy Beckett and Ian Keen respectively, also contained path-breaking work that shifted away from 'culturalism', yet the paths they cleared were into territory that must have appeared worrying or dull, because few anthropologists followed them (Beckett 1988; Keen 1988). It was also in 1988 that two works from central Australia challenged the classical frameworks, one by analysing processes of bureaucratic governance (Jeff Collman's Fringe Dwellers and Welfare) and the other by documenting the decisions being made by the people of Yuendemu as they took up video recording of their culture, conscious that their control over certain kinds of knowledge and practices were threatened by television technology (Eric Michaels For a Cultural Future) (Collmann 1988; Michaels 1988).

We are suggesting that the minor ethnographic traditions in Australian anthropology (16) are relevant for understanding the more conflicted aspects of contemporary Aboriginal social life that have received so much publicity since the panic that led to the 2007 Emergency Intervention began to erupt in 2006 (Jones, 2006). Anthropologists have worried that there is no substantial or well-established ethnographic literature that offers insights into conditions in the north that the media now portrays as extremely distressing. Where were the systematic accounts of Indigenous responses to how their social worlds had been governed? The lack of ethnographic and theoretical attention to the changing social worlds of Aborigines in the north comprises a major act of erasure. There are scattered exceptions; in introducing his text book The Australian Aborigines Ken Maddock discussed some sustained political responses to the colonial presence before the 1980s (Maddock 1982). More recent studies, of which there are now a number, have not gained mainstream status. Thus there was little ethnographic material that could provide a basis for contesting Sutton's influential and negative interpretation of the self-determination era. The body of work in the south that had documented and interpreted the impact of colonial society on Aboriginal social life was seen as irrelevant to Aboriginal conditions in 'remote communities' in the north, despite the presence of similar social distress.

We are beginning to see a new wave of Australian ethnographers again developing new concepts and approaches (Everett 2009; Gibson 2008; Gibson 2010; Lambert-Pennington 2007; McComsey 2010; Yamanouchi 2010), often focussed on the development and assertion of new forms of Aboriginal identity. But we should again emphasise that it is not their geographical location that makes this ethnographic work significant. Rather, it is because this work takes account of the structural, historical and symbolic context that has generated the existential reality of Aboriginal lifeways today. These papers reach towards that task in various ways.


Barry Morris's article on borderwork is concerned with the range of existential dilemmas that confront Indigenous peoples in 'being out of place, when in one's place'. He reflects on the significance of Jeremy Beckett's study of the self-positioning of a particular Aboriginal man, socially dislocated on the cultural borderlands that are an everyday feature of indigenous lifeworlds. He illustrates this condition through the embedded contradictions between the law's definitions of family and the responsibility for kin as understood by Aboriginal people. While the reproduction of the border could be seen as an impersonal consequence of state agencies dealing equally with citizens with different histories, for Aboriginal people these everyday experiences of offensive practices demonstrate the hostility of officials. Borderwork seeks to provide a focus on the way boundaries are continually contested and constructed, dismantled and reconstructed as a result of changing historical and social configurations.

Natalie Kwok's analysis is also concerned with the ever present, viscerally experienced boundaries, where shame lurks constantly. Recognising the double-edged nature of shame among Kooris, Kwok observes how this legitimised emotional response both protects community autonomy and reproduces a protective distance from the white world. By exploring the valorisation of shame, Kwok elucidates social relations within a small, encapsulated Koori community, and shows how and why the barrier against engagement with the white world is reproduced.

The place of local languages in South Australian Aborigines' political struggles in the era of native title is the theme of Paul Monaghan's paper. Monaghan's language revival work has given him insights into the effects of state funding of local cultural resources, where history has left Aborigines with ambiguous and contested markers of identity. They are now being offered a series of new choices and are demanding to represent themselves in public to a world where identities are manufactured and performed in unstable conditions. Here, social borders may appear insubstantial and permeable, but they are also taken for granted, an embedded element of everyday reality. Monaghan alerts us to the crucial significance of language for social distinctions, as well as the political ambiguity of language revival.

The kin based social identities that are being contested in southern Australia are threatened more radically in urban situations as the next two papers show. Where Aboriginal people are threatened with social erasure because close knit social relations come under threat, new forms of community making emerge, for instance with Aboriginal organisations in south-western Sydney (Yamanouchi), and on the northern NSW coast, through Pentacostalism (Ono).

When Yuriko Yamanouchi worked among Aboriginal people in South Western Sydney, she found tension and disagreement about who was and who was not Aboriginal. She argues that the relational sense of Aboriginality has been rendered problematic by the sundering of kin connection due to historical separations and other disturbances. Because a genealogical understanding of kinship is now deployed by government agencies, and by Aboriginal organisations, the significance of social and family relationships in the present is gradually being replaced. Organisations now have a central role in authorising and legitimising claims to Aboriginal identity. Community is created and boundaries are controlled through the identification of ancestors, allowing the flexibility to include 'stolen' children and those who have lost connections with family, and reducing the importance of living social connections.

Akiko Ono's work among Aboriginal Pentacostalists in rural NSW also demonstrates the importance of history for anthropology. Inspired by an earlier study (Calley 1964), she returned to the same site and found dramatic changes in how these Christians see themselves. They are convinced they must distance themselves from their own former cultural beliefs as they perceive them today, particularly sorcery, and magic which cause disruption and conflict. They try to erect barriers against the past that these beliefs signify. Ono argues, following Dombrowski (2001), that it is their explicit rejection of what they call 'culture' that reproduces a consciously distinctive Aboriginality. That is, their form of participation in contemporary social life is through a Christianity that also conceals a pride in their unique heritage. The imagined boundary with which they are preoccupied is not between people defined in terms of race, but between people defined by their supernatural beliefs.

In a study arising from a long and intimate involvement with the Indigenous art of southeast Australia, Sylvia Kleinert records a fruitful alliance between Aborigines at Lake Tyers and tourists who desired access to Aboriginal people and their artefacts. Far from being a cultural menace, this tourism provided conditions for the mission residents to continue making valued artefacts and to elude the managers' attempts to stamp out cultural expression. These tourists were appreciative rather than appropriative. Kleinert shows how the border between 'Art' and 'Koori art' has been blurred by a whole range of decisions about representing a dramatically changed sense of identity about which nothing is either fixed or agreed. Her essay contributes to contemporary politics in two ways. First it shows the problems with categorising cultural artefacts as either art, or as inauthentic commercial products. Second it shows the historical shift in the evaluation of commercial exchange within the art world. Selling Aboriginal art was deemed dangerous and forbidden at Lake Tyers in the early 20th century, while it is precisely what is most widely applauded today.

Jeremy Beckett's reflection on an occasion when secret knowledge he recorded half a century ago was called upon by a new generation of Aborigines in central NSW is a fitting finale to a collection of ethnographies from the south east. Jeremy's encounter with the grandchildren of his original informants, mediated by curious white men, illustrates the existential dilemma faced by Aboriginal people everywhere, as the boundaries between modernity and a pre-modern social world shift and reemerge in the everyday lives of people whose histories are located on two sides of a social and cultural divide. The question Beckett raises--about how Indigeneity as lived relates to Indigenism as understood from outside--is relevant throughout Australia, especially as government agencies become actively involved in Aboriginal self expression.


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(1.) The conference, 'Transformations at the Cultural Interface: Contemporary Aboriginal cultural dynamics in south-east Australia' held at Macquarie University Sydney, 7th and 8th December 2009, was funded by Macquarie University and organised by Lorraine Gibson and Kristina Everett in co-operation with SEANA.

(2.) The group's name emerged from a particular confluence of anthropologists working in the south-east. The acronym SEANA is intended to refer to ethnographic work focused on urban and rural areas, on contemporary conditions, on govemance and on the emergence of contemporary forms of Indigeneity and their conditions of reproduction.

(3.) Tess Lea speaks of 'their state of exception as the condition of inclusion that is the remote Aboriginal assemblage' (Lea, forthcoming).

(4.) The pressure to deal with questions of authenticity stems partly from the revived interest in 'Aboriginal culture' in urban areas (Cowlishaw 2010).

(5.) These are Gillian Cowlishaw's recollections of student years that spanned the 1970s. We should also recall other attempts to raise the profile of work in the south-east. Besides publications to be discussed below, there was a conference Aboriginality in South East Australia at the ANU HRC 18-19 June 1997 organised by Francesca Merlan, and in 2000 and 2001 Gillian convened a series of Double Edged conferences, trying to bring Indigenous studies into a relationship with multicultura! studies.

(6.) New and exciting discoveries were coming thick and fast, as the history of human habitation on the continent rapidly moved back from an estimated 6,000 years to 60,000 years. Prehistorians produced evidence of ancient art and eel farming and permanent buildings were discovered in the south-east (eg. Lourandos 1997).

(7.) Linguistics was another branch of the department which included some Aboriginal languages courses, but in the 1970s there was no work on Kriols or Aboriginal English.

(8.) Published and produced by AIATSIS Athol McCoy (copyright). Originally recorded by Jeremy Beckett (see Beckett 1964).

(9.) A lively rumour had it that this conflict culminated in an argument and fisticuffs.

(10.) Influential publications were Asad's collection Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter (1973), Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth (1967), Said's Orientalism (1978) and Wolf's Europe and the people without history (1982). New style ethnographies, feminist works, and a rash of European theorists, including Foucault's 1978 The History of Sexuality, were being read with great interest and enthusiasm by some anthropologists, but seldom seriously deployed.

(11.) Eric Micbaels (1978) made an equivalent criticism of Fred Myers seminal study, Pintupi Country, Pintupi Self.

(12.) Austin-Broos' book on the Arrernte (2009) speaks of 'competing moral orders'; Yasmine Musharbasb's on Yuendemu (2008) discusses everyday life in contemporary conditions but both works accept the exceptional nature of Indigenous people as a given, and pay little attention to the non-Aboriginal members of these communities.

(13.) Vigorous controversy has emerged about how to respond to the public scandals, but a number of senior anthropologists have legitimised the terms of the public debate. Altman and Hinkson (2010) published a range of relevant essays that oppose or defend the migration of anthropological analysis into policy rationales.

(14.) The reasons were complex, but at the level of anthropology's own popular culture, it appears that work of this kind was just not 'sexy'.

(15.) In her original study of the Erambie mission community in Cowra NSW, Gaynor MacDonald, also Beckett's student, deployed classical interpretive concepts devised in the north (MacDonald 1988).

(16.) These included the largely forgotten community studies, for instance a study of local government, and of the ideology of 'mateship' in country towns (Ron Wild, Harry Oxley) as well as studies of immigrant communities (eg. Bottomly, 1978).

Gillian Cowlishaw

University of Sydney

Lorraine Gibson

Macquarie University
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Title Annotation:Introduction
Author:Cowlishaw, Gillian; Gibson, Lorraine
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Mar 1, 2012
Previous Article:Opening address.
Next Article:Borderwork in Indigenous South-Eastern Australia.

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