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Law's Anthropology »

From ethnography to expert testimony in native title

Authored by: Paul Burke
Publication date: November 2011
Anthropologists have been appearing as key expert witnesses in native title claims for over 20 years. Until now, however, there has been no theoretically-informed, detailed investigation of how the expert testimony of anthropologists is formed and how it is received by judges. This book examines the structure and habitus of both the field of anthropology and the juridical field and how they have interacted in four cases, including the original hearing in the Mabo case. The analysis of background material has been supplemented by interviews with the key protagonists in each case. This allows the reader a unique, insider’s perspective of the courtroom drama that unfolds in each case. The book asks, given the available ethnographic research, how will the anthropologist reconstruct it in a way that is relevant to the legal doctrine of native title when that doctrine gives a wide leeway for interpretation on the critical questions: what is the relevant grouping, what can be counted as a traditional law and when has there been too much change of tradition? How will such evidence be received by judges who are becoming increasingly sceptical about experts tailoring their evidence to suit the party which called them? This book answers these questions by assuming that there is more at stake here than the mere performance of roles. Rather, there is a complex interaction of distinct social fields each with its own habitus, and individual actors are engaged in an active and constructive agency, however subtle, which the painstaking research for this book uncovers.

Australian Native Title Anthropology »

Strategic practice, the law and the state

Authored by: Kingsley Palmer
Publication date: May 2018
The Australian Federal Native Title Act 1993 marked a revolution in the recognition of the rights of Australia’s Indigenous peoples. The legislation established a means whereby Indigenous Australians could make application to the Federal Court for the recognition of their rights to traditional country. The fiction that Australia was terra nullius (or ‘void country’), which had prevailed since European settlement, was overturned. The ensuing legal cases, mediated resolutions and agreements made within the terms of the Native Title Act quickly proved the importance of having sound, scholarly and well-researched anthropology conducted with claimants so that the fundamentals of the claims made could be properly established. In turn, this meant that those opposing the claims would also benefit from anthropological expertise. This is a book about the practical aspects of anthropology that are relevant to the exercise of the discipline within the native title context. The engagement of anthropology with legal process, determined by federal legislation, raises significant practical as well as ethical issues that are explored in this book. It will be of interest to all involved in the native title process, including anthropologists and other researchers, lawyers and judges, as well as those who manage the claim process. It will also be relevant to all who seek to explore the role of anthropology in relation to Indigenous rights, legislation and the state.

Ethnography & the Production of Anthropological Knowledge »

Essays in honour of Nicolas Peterson

Publication date: February 2011
Professor Nicolas Peterson is a central figure in the anthropology of Aboriginal Australia. This volume honours his anthropological body of work, his commitment to ethnographic fieldwork as a source of knowledge, his exemplary mentorship of generations of younger scholars and his generosity in facilitating the progress of others. The diverse collection produced by former students, current colleagues and long-term peers provides reflections on his legacy as well as fresh anthropological insights from Australia and the wider Asia-Pacific region. Inspired by Nicolas Peterson’s work in Aboriginal Australia and his broad ranging contributions to anthropology over several decades, the contributors to this volume celebrate the variety of his ethnographic interests. Individual chapters address, revisit, expand on, and ethnographically re-examine his work about ritual, material culture, the moral domestic economy, land and ecology. The volume also pays homage to Nicolas Peterson’s ability to provide focused research with long-term impact, exemplified by a series of papers engaging with his work on demand sharing and the applied policy domain.

The Human Voyage: Undergraduate Research in Biological Anthropology: Volume 1, 2017 »

Publication date: August 2017
The Human Voyage: Undergraduate Research in Biological Anthropology is a journal that publishes outstanding student articles in all areas of biological anthropology, including primatology, palaeoanthropology, bioarchaeology and human behavioural ecology. While the primary goal of this journal is to publish work of the highest quality authored by undergraduate students, it will also educate students in regards to publishing in academia. All submissions will be peer-reviewed and edited by ANU academic staff.

Sung Tales from the Papua New Guinea Highlands »

Studies in Form, Meaning, and Sociocultural Context

Publication date: August 2011
The genres of sung tales that are the subject of this volume are one of the most striking aspects of the cultural scene in the Papua New Guinea Highlands. Composed and performed by specialist bards, they are a highly valued art form. From a comparative viewpoint they are remarkable both for their scale and complexity, and for the range of variation that is found among regional genres and individual styles. Though their existence has previously been noted by researchers working in the Highlands, and some recordings made of them, most of these genres have not been studied in detail until quite recently, mainly because of the challenging range of disciplinary expertise that is required—in anthropology, linguistics, and ethnomusicology. This volume presents a set of interrelated studies by researchers in all of those fields, and by a Papua New Guinea Highlander who has assisted with the research based on his lifelong familiarity with one of the regional genres. The studies presented here (all of them previously unpublished and written especially for this volume) are of groundbreaking significance not only for specialists in Melanesia or the Pacific, but also for readers with a more general interest in comparative poetics, mythology, musicology, or verbal art.

Indigenous Participation in Australian Economies »

Historical and anthropological perspectives

Edited by: Ian Keen
Publication date: December 2010
This volume seeks to contribute to the body of anthropological and historical studies of Indigenous participation in the Australian colonial and post colonial economy. It arises out of a panel on this topic at the annual conference of the Australian Anthropological Society, held jointly with the British and New Zealand anthropological associations in Auckland in December 2008. The panel was organised in conjunction with an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant project on Indigenous participation in Australian economies involving the National Museum of Australia as the partner organisation and the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at The Australian National University. The chapters of the volume bring new theoretical analyses and empirical data to bear on a continuing discussion about the variety of ways in which Indigenous people in Australia have been engaged in the colonial and post-colonial economy. Contributions cover settler capitalism, concepts of property on the frontier, Torres Strait Islanders in the mainland economy, the pastoral industry in the Kimberley, doggers in the Western Desert, bean and pea picking on the South Coast of New South Wales, attitudes to employment in general in western New South Wales, relations of Aboriginal people to mining in the Pilbara, and relations with the uranium mine and Kakadu National Park in the Top End. The chapters also contribute to discussions about theoretical and analytical frameworks relevant to these kinds of contexts and bring critical perspectives to bear on current issues of development.

German Ethnography in Australia »

Publication date: September 2017
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 Quest for the Good Life in Precarious Times »

Ethnographic Perspectives on the Domestic Moral Economy

Publication date: April 2018
The study of the quest for the good life and the morality and value it presupposes is not new. To the contrary, this is an ancient issue; its intellectual history can be traced back to Aristotle. In anthropology, the study of morality and value has always been a central concern, despite the claim of some scholars that the recent upsurge of interest in these issues is new. What is novel is how scholars in many disciplines are posing the value question in new ways. The global economic alignments of the present pose many political, moral and theoretical questions, but the central issue the essays in this collection address is: how do relatively poor people of the Australia–Pacific region survive in current precarious times? In looking to answer this question, contributors directly engage the values and concepts of their interlocutors. At a time when understanding local implications of global processes is taking on new urgency, these essays bring finely honed anthropological perspectives to matters of universal human concern—they offer radical empirical critique based on intensive fieldwork that will be of great interest to those seeking to comprehend the bigger picture.

Steep Slopes »

Music and change in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea

Authored by: Kirsty Gillespie
Publication date: December 2010
The Duna live in a physical environment of steep slopes that are sometimes difficult to traverse. A stick of bamboo used as a prop goes a long way in assisting a struggling traveller. Similarly, the Duna live in a social and cultural environment of steep slopes, where the path on which they walk can be precarious and unpredictable. Songs, like the stick of bamboo, assist the Duna in picking their way over this terrain by providing a forum for them to process change as it is experienced, in relation to what is already known. This book is a musical ethnography of the Duna people of Papua New Guinea. A people who have experienced extraordinary social change in recent history, their musical traditions have also radically changed during this time. New forms of music have been introduced, while ancestral traditions have been altered or even abandoned. This study shows how, through musical creativity, Duna people maintain a connection with their past, and their identity, whilst simultaneously embracing the challenges of the present.

Songs of the Empty Place »

The Memorial Poetry of the Foi of the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea

Authored by: James Weiner, Don Niles
Publication date: July 2015
For 31 months between 1979 and 1995, James F. Weiner conducted anthropological research amongst the Foi people in Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea. This book contains the transcriptions, translations, and descriptions of the songs he recorded. The texts of women’s sago songs (obedobora), men’s ceremonial songs (sorohabora), and women’s sorohabora are included. Men turn the prosaic content of womenís sago songs into their own sorohabora songs, which are performed the night following large-scale inter-community pig kills, called dawa. While women sing sago songs by themselves, men sing their ceremonial songs in groups of paired men. Women also have their own ceremonial versions of such songs. The songs are memorial in intent; they are designed to commemorate the lives of men who are no longer living. Most commonly they do so by naming the places the deceased inhabited during his lifetime. These song texts and translations are introduced by Weiner. Ethnomusicologist Don Niles then brings together information about each type of song and considers these Foi genres in relation to those of neighbouring groups, highlighting aspects of regional performance styles. Consideration is also given to the poetic devices used in Papua New Guinea songs. Eighteen recordings illustrating the Foi genres discussed in this book are available for download. It remains uncertain how such songs may be affected by the major oil extraction project that has been undertaken in the region for more than two decades. This book will interest students of anthropology, ethnomusicology, linguistics, verbal art, aesthetics, and cultural heritage.