Anna Kenny

Anna Kenny is a consultant anthropologist who has been based in Alice Springs for 25 years and was an Australian Research Council postdoctoral fellow in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at The Australian National University between 2012 and 2016. She has conducted field research with Indigenous people in the Northern Territory since 1991, as well as in Queensland and Western Australia, and has written many connection reports for native title claims that have supported successful native title determinations. She is the author of a book on Carl Strehlow’s ethnography, The Aranda’s Pepa: An Introduction to Carl Strehlow’s Masterpiece Die Aranda- und Loritja-Stämme in Zentral-Australien (1907–1920) and co-edited with Nic Peterson German Ethnography in Australia. Currently, she is working on several native title claims and a monograph on T.G.H. Strehlow’s anthropology called Shadows of a Father.

Carl Strehlow’s 1909 Comparative Heritage Dictionary »

An Aranda, German, Loritja and Dieri to English Dictionary with Introductory Essays

Edited by: Anna Kenny
Carl Strehlow’s comparative dictionary manuscript is a unique item of Australian cultural heritage; it is a large collection of circa 7,600 Aranda, 6,800 Loritja (Luritja) and 1,200 Dieri to German entries compiled at the beginning of the twentieth century at the Hermannsburg Mission in central Australia. It is an integral part of Strehlow’s ethnographic work on Aboriginal cultures that his German editor Baron Moritz von Leonhardi published as Die Aranda- und Loritja-Stämme in Zentral-Australien (Strehlow 1907–1920) in Frankfurt. Strehlow and his editor had planned to publish a language study that included this comparative dictionary, but it remained unpublished until now due to a number of complicated historical and personal circumstances of the main characters involved with the dictionary. Strehlow’s linguistic work is historically and anthropologically significant because it probably represents the largest and most comprehensive wordlist of Indigenous languages compiled in Australia during the early stages of contact. It is an important primary source for Luritja and Aranda speakers. Both languages are spoken in homes and taught in schools in central Australia. The reasons for presenting this work as a heritage dictionary—that is, as an exact transcription of the original form of the handwritten manuscript—are to follow the Western Aranda people’s wishes and to maintain its historical authenticity, which will prove to be of great use to both Indigenous people and scholars interested in language.

German Ethnography in Australia »

The contribution of German ethnography to Australian anthropological scholarship on Aboriginal societies and cultures has been limited, primarily because few people working in the field read German. But it has also been neglected because its humanistic concerns with language, religion and mythology contrasted with the mainstream British social anthropological tradition that prevailed in Australia until the late 1960s. The advent of native title claims, which require drawing on the earliest ethnography for any area, together with an increase in research on rock art of the Kimberley region, has stimulated interest in this German ethnography, as have some recent book translations. Even so, several major bodies of ethnography, such as the 13 volumes on the cultures of northeastern South Australia and the seven volumes on the Aranda of the Alice Springs region, remain inaccessible, along with many ethnographically rich articles and reports in mission archives. In 18 chapters, this book introduces and reviews the significance of this neglected work, much of it by missionaries who first wrote on Australian Aboriginal cultures in the 1840s. Almost all of these German speakers, in particular the missionaries, learnt an Aboriginal language in order to be able to document religious beliefs, mythology and songs as a first step to conversion. As a result, they produced an enormously valuable body of work that will greatly enrich regional ethnographies.

The Aranda's Pepa »

An introduction to Carl Strehlow’s Masterpiece Die Aranda- und Loritja-Stämme in Zentral-Australien (1907-1920)

Authored by: Anna Kenny
The German missionary Carl Strehlow (1871-1922) had a deep ethnographic interest in Aboriginal Australian cosmology and social life which he documented in his 7 volume work Die Aranda- und Loritja-Stämme in Zentral-Australien that remains unpublished in English. In 1913, Marcel Mauss called his collection of sacred songs and myths, an Australian Rig Veda. This immensely rich corpus, based on a lifetime on the central Australian frontier, is barely known in the English-speaking world and is the last great body of early Australian ethnography that has not yet been built into the world of Australian anthropology and its intellectual history. The German psychological and hermeneutic traditions of anthropology that developed outside of a British-Australian intellectual world were alternatives to 19th century British scientism. The intellectual roots of early German anthropology reached back to Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803), the founder of German historical particularism, who rejected the concept of race as well as the French dogma of the uniform development of civilisation. Instead he recognised unique sets of values transmitted through history and maintained that cultures had to be viewed in terms of their own development and purpose. Thus, humanity was made up of a great diversity of ways of life, language being one of its main manifestations. It is this tradition that led to a concept of cultures in the plural.