Accepted paper:

Where dingoes howl: fear and wonder 'out bush'


Eve Vincent (Macquarie University)

Paper short abstract:

An Aboriginal group called ‘Aunty Joan Mob’ experience fear and wonder out bush. I consider the relationship between local social conditions, Aunty Joan Mob’s marginal political position, and the significance of them being both scared of, and awe-inspired by, their country.

Paper long abstract:

When an Aboriginal family group called 'Aunty Joan Mob' travel out bush, they make contact with awe- and fear- inspiring country. What is the relationship between their fear—of the heat, snakes and wild dogs—and the wonder awakened by contact with sites, eagles and material traces associated with 'the old people' or ancestors? Joel Robbins (2013) argues that postcolonial and Indigenous challenges to anthropology's treatment of cultural otherness saw ethnographers turn their attention to suffering subjects from the mid-1980s. Robbins suggests this interest in suffering is waning in light of a reinvigorated anthropological interest in radical alterity. In the case I describe these foci are not easily decoupled. National political developments and the liberal promise of the recognition of cultural difference, bitter local intra-Aboriginal conflicts, and the subordination of Aboriginal people within an outback town's racial schema, are all crucial to understanding Aunty Joan Mob's wondrous orientation to the primordial Aboriginal past and the otherness of their own antecedents. The bush acts as a repository for latent powers, which are only partially grasped today, and respectful fear of the bush enhances rather than detracts from its pleasures. Thus the bush becomes a politically transformative imaginary space, where Aboriginal people seek to escape the white gaze and where Aboriginal's ability to survive, independent of white foodstuffs, is conjured up and relished.

panel Rel01
The social formation of wonder