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Australian Aboriginal Anthropology Today: Critical Perspectives from Europe

International Symposium on Australian Aboriginal Anthropology – January 22-24th, 2013

The wide circulation of Australian Aboriginal ethnographies during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries can be said to have significantly shaped the anthropological study of myth, ritual, kinship, art, or hunting and gathering economies. Despite important political changes brought about since the 1960s by indigenous campaigns for the recognition of their land and other related rights, their increasing visibility on national and international stages, and their creative adjustments to State and other outside interventions, this intellectual legacy continues to inform much of the scholarship produced by non-Australianist anthropologists in Europe. By contrast in Australia, the practice of anthropology has been profoundly challenged by this highly charged context. Researchers are required to negotiate their positioning according to diverging and ever-shifting political, economic and social agendas while conforming at the same time to ethical standards set by their institutions that evaluate research in terms of its “benefits” for the studied groups. For many anthropologists working in Aboriginal Australia, whose data can be utilized by various corporate interests or potentially subpoenaed in court, the tension between applied and implicated anthropology ultimately raises the question of scientific responsibility.

Many European anthropologists have contributed to those debates in and out of Australia, through long fieldwork involvement with different Aboriginal peoples.

This symposium, which is the first event of its kind in France, brought together thirty scholars from Australia, Europe and northern America, to critically explore the theoretical and empirical underpinnings of Aboriginal anthropology today. The tensions linking Aboriginal cultural activism to anthropological reflexivity, past scientific knowledge to current research, Australian academic traditions to European scholarship, as well as the implications of research politics in the production of anthropological knowledge, were addressed through five thematic panels which reflect the diversity of current anthropological work in Aboriginal Australia.

Notes de la rédaction

Scientific committee: Laurent Berger, Barbara Glowczewski, Laurent Dousset, Marika Moisseeff,  Jessica De Largy Healy

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