The missing majority: indigenous peoples, two way appropriation, and identity in densely colonised spaces
Location E
Date and Time 11th December, 2008 at 08:30


Yuriko Yamanouchi (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies)
Kristina Everett (Macquarie University)
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Short Abstract

Our panel discusses issues related to cultural appropriations and reappropriations by Indigenous subjects in some urban and rural centres of nation states.

Long Abstract

In response to some on-going observations that Indigenous 'culture' in rural and urban centres is still not generally discussed enough in anthropological discourses, our panel addresses the fact that cities and country towns are sites of creative agency that see Indigenous appropriations and re-appropriations of cultural discourse, beliefs and imposed social systems. These 'centres' of dominant and dominating nation states can, however, proscribe Indigenous efforts to resist hegemonies while negotiating appropriations and re-appropriations under the gaze of urban governance. Indigenous Corporations, as some of our panel describe for example, have been used by Indigenous groups, especially in urban and rural spaces, to subvert the reportage, organisation and surveillance strategies that they could potentially impose. Indigenous groups have taken neo-liberal / modern corporations and turned them, or attempt to turn them, into Indigenous social networks. These issues will be discussed in this session from various perspectives in different national contexts.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Identity and Indigeneity in Urban Performance

Author: Angel Bright (University of Canterbury)

Short Abstract

This paper examines urban indigenous performance in Australia and its relationship with the state. It will show that through performance, urban indigenous Australians are actively piecing together a cultural heritage that has been fragmented during colonial processes.


Within anthropological literature there has been minimal research into the ways urban indigenous Australians are creating their own forms of public performance in relation to the state. As such, this paper examines the indigenous performance "Woggan-ma-gule: Farm Cove Morning Ceremony", performed in the Sydney botanic gardens as part of the Australia Day celebrations. This paper will show how issues surrounding Australia Day and its colonial legacy are negotiated by urban performers through this performance.

In addition, this paper will acknowledge the unique situation of indigenous performers, who find themselves performing aboriginality in an urban setting. It will outline how their individual creativity is compensating for a sense of cultural loss. This paper will show that through performance, urban indigenous Australians are actively seeking out an identity and piecing together a cultural heritage that has been fragmented during colonial processes.

In this paper, I propose that performance in an urban setting is no less significant than its rural counterpart, though it may be significant for different reasons. The conference presentation will include footage and images from the performance and draw on the personal experiences of the performers.

Two way appropriation and beyond: Aboriginality and Organisation in South Western Sydney.

Author: Yuriko Yamanouchi (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies)

Short Abstract

Organisations dealing with Aboriginal issues by employing Aboriginal workers play a significant role in the socialities of Aboriginal people in the suburbs. Exploring their role not only shows the two-way appropriation from the Aboriginal and State side but also questions this binary relationship itself.


Not much discussion has happened on the role of organisations in Aboriginal people's socialities. In some studies of remote areas, the contrast between the government design of these organisations and Aboriginal peoples' mode of social operation is often pointed out. In urban contexts the dynamics are slightly different.

This paper will discuss the urban dynamics of Aboriginal people's socialities and identity by focusing on the role of organisations and their workers with Aboriginal designated positions in south western Sydney. South western Sydney has the second largest concentration of Aboriginal people in Australia. It is a low socio-economic working class suburb, where people are residentially dispersed in ethnic terms. They do not have the characteristics of kinship, strong ties to the locality, or shared histories that one commonly encounters as the base of social relationships in rural and remote areas. In these areas organisations dealing with Aboriginal issues employing Aboriginal workers play a significant role in creating and maintaining Aboriginal peoples' social relationships.  However, it is a double-edge sword. On one hand, Aboriginal people use these organisations to create their own 'Aboriginal space'. On the other hand, the government assumption of the concept of community and Aboriginality often distracts Aboriginal people from creating and maintaining their social relationships. Exploring this two-way appropriation will not only show how this confusion and ambiguity are the part of experience of being Aboriginal in urban areas but also question the boundaries between 'Aboriginal' and 'non-Aboriginal'.

Appropriation, Reappropriation and the Maori Struggle for Rangatiratanga/Autonomy 1945-1960s.

Author: Richard Hill (Victoria University, Wellington)

Short Abstract

In 1945 the New Zealand Crown responded to pressure by Maori to address their socio-economic needs through state institutions which appropriated their organsational forms and energies; Maori utilised these for such purposes but also subverted them in their pursuit of rangatiratanga/autonomy.


From 1945, Maori voices for legal and socio-economic equality with whites/pakeha grew louder. The state was prepared to address this, but for it the corollary for such affirmative action needed to be assimilation. But Maori continued to maintain their own cultural and organisational traditions, worldviews and aspirations - despite the three decades after the War being a time of massive urban migration nad supposed 'detribalisation'. Most troubling to the state (and pakeha) was the Maori quest for the rangatiratanga (roughly, autonomy) promised them by the Crown in Article Two of the founding document of the nation, the Treaty of Waitangi of 1840. The state had always declared that Crown sovereignty was 'indivisible', but had been forced from time to time to make 'concessions'. More of these were instituted at the end of the War, with the Crown providing state institutions (committees of the Maori Welfare Organisation) by which Maori could pursue Maori causes. This appropriating of Maori organisational energies was designed to both divert Maori from autonomist pursuits (recognising that indigeneity remained a force, but doing so in a way which attempted to control and steer it) and to assist assimilation. In turn, Maori sought to make use of these organisations to pursue equality, but also - and more significantly - to reappropriate them and turn their energies into agencies of rangatiratanga. When the Maori Renaissance occurred from the late 1960s onwards, the groundwork had partly been laid by the Maori committee system established by the state and complemented and reappropriated by Maori.