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Ontology and cultural politics: Aboriginal versus European Australians

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Nevertheless, in the remote parts of the Western Desert the Aboriginal people remain Aboriginal in thought and experience. They exploit the advantages which the Euraustralians offer, while remaining committed to their way of life. European-Australians water their trees, carry water to the camps, collect the Aboriginals' firewood, repair their automobiles, cook meals for the children and old people, and clean the few Aboriginal houses which exist; their wages are paid by the Australian government.

If anything, strategic contact with European civilization has increased the amount of time available for traditional Aboriginal ceremonies, as well as the number of Aboriginals who can transport themselves to the ceremonies. Euraustralian residents are outraged about the amount of time Aboriginals spend “corroborreein'”. The Secretary of the West Swan Progress Association, a Euraustralian community group. claims that the Aboriginals are becoming a “law unto themselves”, and this offends the moral-legalistic sense of order which Euraustralians assert in their cultural political struggle with Aboriginals. Today, the cultural politics is being carried on with renewed vigor, and the outcome is by no means certain.

A Catholic missionary, at the end of his career with Aboriginals made perhaps the most astute comment I have heard about the Aboriginal undergoing modernization.

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Ken Liberman has been the Western Desert Research Officer for the Western Australian Museum for the past two years. Currently, he and his wife, Ms A.Z. Parker, are community organizers employed by the Aboriginal Council at Docker River, Northern Territory, Australia.

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Liberman, K. Ontology and cultural politics: Aboriginal versus European Australians. Dialect Anthropol 3, 157–176 (1978). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00253438

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  • Community Group
  • Aboriginal People
  • Cultural Politics
  • Australian Government
  • Western Desert