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A World of Relationships

A World of Relationships: Itineraries, Dreams, and Events in the Australian Western Desert

Sylvie Poirier
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  • Book Info
    A World of Relationships
    Book Description:

    Through the synthesis of a complex and diverse range of theoretical and empirical materials,A World of Relationshipsoffers new insights into Australian Aboriginal sociality, historicity, and dynamics of cultural change and ritual innovation.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7055-6
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    This book explores dialectical aspects of Australian Aboriginal social and cosmological realities that have been brought to light by recent ethnographic work.¹ With a focus on some Western Desert groups, I discuss the facets of their world where intransigence gives way to negotiation, constraint yields to strategy, repetition allows innovation, rigidity bends to openness and flexibility, formal rules flex under the performative, structures are moulded by the event, and univocality gives voice to plurivocality. This ethnographic study focuses on the manifold and dynamic relations among the ancestral order, the land, and human and non-human agencies, and underlines the local sense...

  5. Chapter 1 A Place like Balgo: A Story of Accommodation, Resistance, and Misunderstandings
    (pp. 15-51)

    This chapter presents a brief social history of the Wirrimanu Aboriginal Corporation from its establishment as the Balgo Hills Catholic Mission in the late 1930s, through the 1990s. It is also a narrative about the nature and extent of the relationships between Aborigines and non-Aborigines in the area. Considering the number of different social groups that have, over the decades, contributed to shaping the place through their experiences, their projects, desires, and disillusionments, and their sufferings, it is evident that the history of a place like Balgo cannot be reduced to a single narrative. In other words, the multivocality and...

  6. Chapter 2 Ancestrality, Sentient Places, and Social Spaces
    (pp. 52-91)

    Two realities or key embodied symbols,Tjukurrpaand the mythical itineraries, are necessary to understand the sociality, cultural expressions, individual experiences, and composite identity of the Kukatja and neighbouring groups. These realities enable us to grasp the ways in which Western Desert Aborigines might possibly understand, structure, express, and negotiate their multifaceted social relationships with each other, the land, and the cosmos. The first of these realities isTjukurrpa, the term most widely used by the Western Desert language groups and generally translated as ‘Dreaming.’Tjukurrpais a cosmology, an ancestral order, and a mytho-ritual structure. As a generative force,...

  7. Chapter 3 Sociality, Mobility, and Composite Identity
    (pp. 92-120)

    Tjukurrpaitineraries, with their delineated segments and networks of sites, represent the main structuring elements that ground and inform Western Desert sociality, identity, and sense of self. In this chapter, I look more closely at the complexity of social morphology and at the different variables and processes through which the linguistic, territorial, residential, and ritual modes of social groupings are formed and transformed. The sociality of Western Desert groups cannot be satisfactorily analysed if one assumes that it is based on rigid structures. The degree of flexibility and of personal choice available must also be considered.

    Following in the steps...

  8. Chapter 4 Ways of Being, Relating, and Knowing
    (pp. 121-153)

    While being a hierarchically superior value,Tjukurrpais immanent rather than transcendent; it is ‘everywhen,’ and its manifestations are part of daily life.Tjukurrparepresents a realm of action, a mode of experience, and a state of being that are coeval and consubstantial with the human realm. Ancestral essences and presences are embodied within the land as a sentient entity, and may interact and interfere with humans in their day-to-day lives.

    In the Kukatja world, the manifold dimensions of relatedness among humans, and again among them, the land, and the ancestral order, are further expressed by the interaction and interplay...

  9. Chapter 5 The Social Setting of Dreams and Dreaming
    (pp. 154-197)

    The cultural system of dreams and dreaming, in its essential correlation toTjukurrpa, was introduced in the preceding chapter, though not in its complete form. Dreams and dreaming appear as a realm of action and a mode of experience that are distinct from, although related to, the ancestral realm. The local theories of dreams and dreaming are closely related to the local notion of the person as a permeable, composite, and ‘dividual’ being. In this chapter, I examine dreams and dreaming as a meaningful realm of experience in daily Aboriginal life: the themes of dreams, their contexts of narration, and...

  10. Chapter 6 Ritual Vitality and Mobility
    (pp. 198-241)

    In the Kukatja world, the relations between the immanence of the ancestral order and the mediating role of dreams on the one hand, and the flexibility and openness of the social morphology on the other, find their ultimate expression in the domain of ritual forms and practices. Rituals and the ancestral actions and itineraries that they express are manifestations of the permanence of the ancestral order. They are also dynamic in that they are transformed over time and across space, either through the reinterpretation of existing elements, or by the insertion of new elements prompted and inspired by local events...

  11. Conclusion: Ancestrality, Imaginary, and Historicity
    (pp. 242-256)

    In the preceding chapters, I have explored some facets of the dynamic relationships among people, places, and ancestors in Western Desert sociality, identity, and historicity in their structural, narrative, and experiential expressions. In an attempt to understand the world of the Kukatja and neighbouring groups, I have emphasized the following aspects of their reality: the immanent and coeval nature ofTjukurrpaas ancestrality; the permeable and flexible character of boundaries; the composite and dividual dimensions of the person; and, finally, the role of dreams and dreaming in the flow of everyday events and in the reinterpretation of forms of permanence....

  12. Notes
    (pp. 257-272)
  13. References
    (pp. 273-290)
  14. Index
    (pp. 291-304)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 305-306)