SEMINAR: Manwurrk narriwurlhkemen (we have to light bushfires): How White people have come to understand the way Arnhemlanders use fire in the landscape
|Manwurrk narriwurlhkemen (we have to light bushfires): How White people have come to understand the way Arnhemlanders use fire in the landscape : Anthropology Seminar Series 2014
In the penultimate chapter of The politics of suffering, Peter Sutton offers some examples of what he considers to be true reconciliation between Aboriginal and White Australians, sharing experiences and entering into the life worlds of each other. His examples are of anthropologists and key informants, ‘Unusual couples’, the title of that chapter.
In this paper I outline a long standing and ever growing project that has involved teams of Aboriginal people and White field workers – rangers, linguists, anthropologists and ecological and physical scientists – which, I argue, extends Sutton’s ‘Unusual couples’, demonstrating reconciliation and cooperative recognition on a much larger scale. The theatre is Arnhemland, Western Arnhemland in particular, and the subject is how we Whitefellas have learnt from, and adapted, Aboriginal technologies without misappropriating them.
This cooperative venture has its origins in the early 1970s when, as a young forestry officer, I found Aboriginal resistance – hardly surprising we can say in retrospect – to the forestry program at Maningrida, initiated in the 1960s to bring wild Arnhemlanders into the modern world, to assimilate them into Australian society. The project, again not surprisingly, failed, for several reasons. Not the least of these was its explicit objective to suppress manwurrk and thus, supposedly, create vast fields of regeneration of native cypress pine.
Yet, all was not lost. Out of that failure came the vast learning experience for Whitefellas, some of which I describe, and another practical project, largely directed and operated by Aboriginal people themselves. That began as a locally oriented conservation and cultural maintenance operation but, in being able to take advantage of carbon farming credits, has now become part of global environmental improvement.
Much of this has been well recorded and analysed in recent years and my purpose here is not so much to rehash already published work as to illuminate the importance of the teams of Blackfellas and Whitefellas working together, thus producing the discourses that come out of common experience; and ‘unusual teams’ that point to the practical reconciliation of which Sutton writes.
Dr Chris Haynes - Honorary Research Fellow Anthropology and Sociology
Social Sciences Lecture Room 1 (G28)
Fri, 30 May 2014 11:00
Fri, 30 May 2014 12:00
Emily Buckland <[email protected]>
Thu, 29 May 2014 12:43
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