Evening Play: Acquainting Toddlers with Dangers and Fear at Yuendumu, Northern Territory

  • Yasmine Musharbash
Part of the Replacement of Neanderthals by Modern Humans Series book series (RNMH)


Based on research with Warlpiri people at the Aboriginal town of Yuendumu in Central Australia, this chapter provides ethnographic material on and analysis of an Aboriginal extended family group’s nightly play sessions, focusing on three toddlers (between 2 and 2.5 years old). These sessions happen after dinner and before the toddlers fall asleep, when family members spend the evening in the camp, socialising. All action focused on the toddlers during this time has to do with inducing and relieving fear. I relate these sessions to others described in the anthropology of Aboriginal Australia and read them as part of larger processes of social learning through which Warlpiri children acquire understanding of their world and how they fit into it.


Australian aborigines Social learning Play 



My first thanks must go to Sachiko Kubota, upon whose invitation I joined the RNMH Project. Professor Kubota looked after me like ngurra-jinta. Heartfelt thanks also to Professor Hideaki Terashima, who made my participation in two stimulating workshops possible. For wonderfully fruitful discussions, I thank Akira Takada, Lye Tuck-Po, Barry Hewlett, Samantha Disbray and Victoria Burbank. Ute Eickelkamp provided useful feedback to a first draft of this chapter and, even more generously, shared invaluable references with me. As always, thank you from the bottom of my heart to the Warlpiri people of Yuendumu for teaching me and especially to Kumunjayi-mob for helping me understand what lani-mani sessions are all about. The time to work on the final version of this chapter was made possible under a fellowship by the ARC (FT130100415) for which I am immensely grateful.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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