‘First Encounters’: Anthropological Field Work in ‘Mixed Race’ Aboriginal Communities in Australia, 1940–1965

November 26 |
11:00 to 13:00
Colloquium Series MPR-Group Lipphardt
Max Planck Research Group Lipphardt
Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Villa, Harnackstraße 5, 14195 Berlin
Kathryn Ticehurst (University of Sydney)
In Australia between 1940 and 1965, several anthropologists including Diane Barwick, Jeremy Beckett, Ruth Fink, Marie Reay and Judy Inglis undertook research in Aboriginal communities labelled as “mixed race.” This term had a confused application even at the time, referring to communities which self-identified as Aboriginal, but which government authorities viewed as transitional and assimilable. Such communities were neither bounded nor isolated and they presented theoretical and methodological challenges to anthropological study. These young researchers found themselves in a period of change: the traditional, colonial “anthropologist-subject” relationship was increasingly recognised as problematic and in need of re-theorising. They searched for new ways to conceptualise cultural identities, struggling to disentangle old racial definitions from the lived reality of Aboriginal communities. I examine the interactions which constituted their fieldwork in order to trace changes in anthropological understandings of Aboriginal identity.