Australian Aboriginal History?

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simonm
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Australian Aboriginal History?

Post by simonm » Wed Aug 09, 2017 9:19 pm

Re-reading Bill Bryson's "Down Under" at the moment. It would have been researched in the mid to late 1990's.

Any suggestions about a nice accessible update to Aboriginal history and culture published more recently? Pretty pictures, nice maps and serious research - ideally all in one.

Thanks.

Simon

randalljazz
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Re: Australian Aboriginal History?

Post by randalljazz » Thu Aug 10, 2017 9:44 am

:chaud:
Last edited by randalljazz on Fri Aug 11, 2017 9:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Andrew Fryer
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Re: Australian Aboriginal History?

Post by Andrew Fryer » Thu Aug 10, 2017 10:16 am

Couldn't say, but I recommend The Songlines, which was the only Bruce Chatwin book I really liked.

I also recommend the Werner Herzog movie Where the Green Ants Dream.
(Wo die grünen Ameisen träumen, since you are German!)
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Peter Lovett
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Re: Australian Aboriginal History?

Post by Peter Lovett » Thu Aug 10, 2017 11:04 am

Andrew Fryer wrote:
Thu Aug 10, 2017 10:16 am
Couldn't say, but I recommend The Songlines, which was the only Bruce Chatwin book I really liked.

I also recommend the Werner Herzog movie Where the Green Ants Dream.
(Wo die grünen Ameisen träumen, since you are German!)
Um....actually I would give both a miss if its accuracy your after.

Because of Australia's European history, Aboriginal history had been left behind until comparatively recently. Its just received another shot of publicity when the earliest dating of artefacts has pushed their time on the continent back another 15,000 years which is causing some rethinking of the source of human kind on earth.

One of the problems with Aboriginal history is that they did not have a written record but passed it down orally, painting and in dance form and interest in that has only recently been taken up.

Its not Aboriginal history per se but gives a very interesting insight into Aboriginal life pre-European history is The Biggest Estate On Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia by Bill Gammage. Gammage is an historian who studied the early European travellers writings on what they observed and compares what they saw, and painted, with today and comes to a conclusion that Aboriginal practices were designed to create an estate and not, as previously supposed, living in a state of nature.

The book grew out of an incident of academic censorship when he was prevented from delivering an address on his research to staff and students at the Uni of Tasmania. He was subsequently sent an email, by way of explanation for the cancellation of his talk, outlining a premise with which he disagreed and it set him off on writing the book. Its not an easy read as by the author's own admission it wound up far bigger than he intended. It has also caused enormous controversy as it takes aim at that premise of the environmental movement and environmental scientific community that until you can prove otherwise, you must assume that natural features have a natural cause. It does, however, shed an enormous amount of light on Aboriginal practices and gives an extremely coherent account of Aboriginal songlines.
1994 Jim Williams lattice braced, Cedar/Tasmanian Blackwood

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Andrew Fryer
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Re: Australian Aboriginal History?

Post by Andrew Fryer » Thu Aug 10, 2017 12:12 pm

Peter Lovett wrote:
Thu Aug 10, 2017 11:04 am
Um....actually I would give both a miss if its accuracy your after.
I recommend them as art, but I think the most important message to take from Herzog is about cross-cultural misunderstandings (although he is possibly doing little more than putting Barthes on screen - I haven't read Barthes for 40 years, so I can't remember). So the accuracy you mention, is that accuracy on our terms or have we some modern aboriginal benchmark for our interpretations? And these aborigines, how are we to interpret what they say before we can use it as a benchmark, or if they say it more directly, have they been educated as historians by us Westerners?

The things I recommend are meant as food for thought, as is all "history". The interpretation doesn't end when the primary sources have been turned into (often inadvertently tendentious) secondary sources. The histories you imagine to be "accurate" are only receptions. Chatwin and Herzog are receptions.

God forbid any early European traveller might have been culturally biased! They were looking for estates themselves and they interpret Aboriginals as estate managers? I can't see a problem with that begging the question!

(that almost all the landscapes we know have been shaped by humans is a separate issue. In addition to history, Simon may find a book on cultural geography, if it's specifically on topic, to be of use)

It's also worth reading Jared Diamond, with care.

Something I know about aboriginals is they know that some of what they know is a matter of life and death to them and they don't tell the white man everything, because he will destroy it (principally, of course, where to access the water table).

Anyway, I'm not a historian and I don't want to get into a debate about the problems of historiography and how many meanings the word "history" has. Incidentally, of all the "A Very Short Introduction" books, History is my favourite of the dozen I've read.
Personality comes into it - if you want to read about WWII, I'd recommend (among the usual stuff) Spike Milligan's war memoirs. Others would reject them out of hand.
1975 Calatayud y Gisbert, Yamaha CG131S.

simonm
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Re: Australian Aboriginal History?

Post by simonm » Thu Aug 10, 2017 6:27 pm

Andrew Fryer wrote:
Thu Aug 10, 2017 10:16 am
Couldn't say, but I recommend The Songlines, which was the only Bruce Chatwin book I really liked.
Read that too, but years ago. I'll was thinking of digging that out too but I may have given it away recently. Thanks for reminding me of it.

Andrew Fryer wrote:
Thu Aug 10, 2017 10:16 am
…..
(Wo die grünen Ameisen träumen, since you are German!)
I live in Germany but am not German. 8)

simonm
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Re: Australian Aboriginal History?

Post by simonm » Thu Aug 10, 2017 6:37 pm

Peter Lovett wrote:
Thu Aug 10, 2017 11:04 am

... the earliest dating of artefacts has pushed their time on the continent back another 15,000 years which is causing some rethinking of the source of human kind on earth.

One of the problems with Aboriginal history is that they did not have a written record but passed it down orally, painting and in dance form and interest in that has only recently been taken up.

Its not Aboriginal history per se but gives a very interesting insight into Aboriginal life pre-European history is The Biggest Estate On Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia by Bill Gammage. Gammage is an historian who studied the early European travellers writings on what they observed and compares what they saw, and painted, with today and comes to a conclusion that Aboriginal practices were designed to create an estate and not, as previously supposed, living in a state of nature.

…..

It does, however, shed an enormous amount of light on Aboriginal practices and gives an extremely coherent account of Aboriginal songlines.
This sounds very promising and is the kind of direction I was hoping to hear about. What we are missing in some ways is an Aboriginal "translation" of their oral tradition, dance and painting in to Western "scientific" "language". The inverted commas because the words don't accurately the express the kind of cultural translation that is needed when there is such a gap in the concepts.

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Peter Lovett
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Re: Australian Aboriginal History?

Post by Peter Lovett » Fri Aug 11, 2017 12:58 pm

There is so much to learn about Aboriginal culture and history in Australia. It is not helped by the fact that it was within my life-time (66) that Aboriginal people were included in the Australian census and given the same rights as European settlers, that government authorities stopped taking part-Aboriginal children from their parents and placing them in foster families; that Aboriginal workers were given equal pay with European workers and given control over their wages. Even today there is a full-blown debate in Australia on how we recognise the Aboriginal population in the Australian Constitution.

Andrew, my apologies, I wasn't trying to be dismissive of your suggestions. You are far better read than me for that. I used to find Bruce Chatwin entertaining until I read Nicholas Shakespeare's biography of the man and found out he was a born liar. I haven't been able to read another word of his since.
1994 Jim Williams lattice braced, Cedar/Tasmanian Blackwood

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Andrew Fryer
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Re: Australian Aboriginal History?

Post by Andrew Fryer » Fri Aug 11, 2017 1:13 pm

I think Chatwin is over-rated, which is why I say the Songlines is the only book of his I liked.

The history of British nuclear testing in Australia is worth examining - I heard that the areas where it was done were not fenced off, there were just notices every mile or so saying KEEP OUT.
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Peter Lovett
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Re: Australian Aboriginal History?

Post by Peter Lovett » Sat Aug 12, 2017 2:05 am

Andrew Fryer wrote:
Fri Aug 11, 2017 1:13 pm
I think Chatwin is over-rated, which is why I say the Songlines is the only book of his I liked.

The history of British nuclear testing in Australia is worth examining - I heard that the areas where it was done were not fenced off, there were just notices every mile or so saying KEEP OUT.
There are suggestions that not all Aboriginal people were removed from the test area before the blast. The area, Maralinga, is subject to a land rights claim but there are areas where you still cannot remain for any length of time due to radiation.
1994 Jim Williams lattice braced, Cedar/Tasmanian Blackwood

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