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Article
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Aboriginal Australia
History

Reflections on reconcilement

Despite the insatiable desire of the settler frontier to consume and erase all in its presence, there are always estranged outliers endlessly drawn to the edges of settlement striving to reach a horizon beyond the frontier. Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers? The dark emu debate by Peter Sutton and Keryn Walshe and recently released by the University of Melbourne Press is more than a critique of Bruce Pascoe’s arguments; it is an oblique and elegiac view of Aboriginal culture through the eyes of well-known anthropologists such as WEH Stanner and lesser-known pioneers such as Donald Thompson, Ursula McConnel and Olive Pink whose work challenged the hierarchical epistemologies of their field and the sanitised myths of settlement that pass for our history.

Collectively Sutton and Walshe have worked with Aboriginal people for over 85 years. Both have been significantly involved in Aboriginal community affairs and continue to be advocates for Aboriginal people. Apart from noting that I do not consider Bruce Pascoe to be an ‘armchair theorist’ (61), but an Aboriginal man actively involved in caring for Country, this reflection upon Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers? is not an intervention or an adjudication of what may or may not be a debate. Rather this is the personal response of an Aboriginal person to the tragedy inherent in the complex relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, which in my view, permeates Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers? In documenting Aboriginal people and ways of life erased by invasion this is a haunted and grief-struck work. But then, grief is the ongoing defining feature of Aboriginality in this settler world. In writing this reflection, it is important to acknowledge that I do not belong to any of the Aboriginal nations or communities referenced in it, nor am I an anthropologist. I apologise beforehand for any misunderstandings, misinterpretations, or disrespect on my part. We are all victims of Progress.

The dedication of Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers? to ‘Enkidu and Gilgamesh’, is something of a sleeper. In his interview with Stuart Rintoul, Sutton said that he sees ‘the birth of reconcilement’ in the Epic of Gilgamesh which is one of the earliest literary creations to emerge from the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia. It was there that farming began, along with all its infrastructure of metalworking, urbanisation, writing, patriarchal theocracies, monarchies, armies, and colonisation. The Epic of Gilgamesh may in the eyes of some be a cultural treasure, but for its victims it can only be contemplated with horror.

The Epic of Gilgamesh was appropriated around 1200 BC by Sin-liqe-unninni, a Babylonian court exorcist from an old Sumerian story of a king called Bilgames and his servant Enkidu. Sin-liqe-unninni erased the Sumerian Bilgames, renaming him Gilgamesh, and reducing him to be the son of a minor deity, only ‘two-thirds divine and one-third mortal’. Sin-liqe-unninni probably created the narrator, and with it the tropes of the heroic quest, the flawed hero, and the tragic hero; all of which became templates in the substrate of the settler narrative.

Sin-liqe-unninni transformed Enkidu from a servant in the Sumerian narrative into the archetypal self-effacing, self-sacrificing foil for the hero’s quest. Sin-liqe-unninni’s Enkidu was created to teach Gilgamesh humility. He was made by a goddess who washed her hands with ‘a pinch of clay’ and ‘threw it down in the wild’, making Enkidu the ‘offspring of silence’. He had no people, no country. He grazed with the gazelles. His fate was sealed by a temple-prostitute sent to seduce him and bring him to the city. The character of Enkidu may well be the template for the archetypal Other as represented in the settler narrative. Sin-liqe-unninni taught Gilgamesh humility by making Enkidu the compliant sacrificial offering of nature on the urban altar. While Gilgamesh is about a tyrannical demi-god learning humility and accepting his mortality; it is also a template for future settler narratives, demonstrating both patriarchal class and power and the power of the author to control the text. The figures of Man Friday, Chingachgook and Tonto, all echo Enkidu. Jackey Jackey, Rolf Boldrewood’s Warrigal and Vance Marshall’s ‘bush-boy’ are Enkidu’s Australian descendants, endlessly reinscribed in the colonial mind. The Epic of Gilgamesh may be a cultural treasure, but it is also a violent work of fiction. Walter Benjamin reminds us that there ‘is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism’. The Epic of Gilgamesh is not the birthplace of ‘reconcilement’, rather it is a template for all settler societies in their endless quest for land, preferably someone else’s land.

As a fieldworker Sutton has been well placed to document the ongoing nature of Invasion, calling the British Empire ‘the greatest kleptocracy in human history’ (4). However, I find Sutton’s equation of settlers with the first people to live in a place too simple a definition (1). The genealogy of the settlers who invaded Australia in 1788 traces back to the farmers and pastoralists of the Fertile Crescent and the Pontic Slopes. I think Sutton is probably alone in referring to ‘Australia before conquest’ (66) and the European conquest in 1788 and later’ (69). I know no Aboriginal person who would define ‘as conquered’. One sentence in Sutton’s conclusion encapsulates much of my confusion and concern with this work.

The Old People, – the First Australians – and all of us deserve better than a history that does not respect or do justice to the societies whose economic and spiritual adjustment to their environment lasted so well and vigorously until the advent of the colonies and the subsequent degradation of much of that environment through land clearing, pastoral stocking, and the spread of feral animals and plants. (200)

Sutton’s focus in this work is on the ‘Old People’, that is, pre-conquest Aboriginal people. I assume that the phrase ‘the First Australians’, which from an Aboriginal perspective is inappropriate, amplifies the ‘Old People’. Am I a ‘modern descendant’ (199)? Or do I, as a ‘conquered’ Aboriginal person, living on the outskirts of Sydney, belong in the ‘all of us’ bucket? I am concerned at the divisions and implications in the concept of ‘economic and spiritual adjustment’. While I recognise the complexities of responding to climatic change during the Last Glacial Maximum, it is my understanding that we managed Country during all those changes. I may be an urban Black, but I live in the Dreaming. And while Sutton’s focus in this book is on ‘pre-conquest’ Australia, no true ‘history’ can be written while the invasion continues to destroy Aboriginal people and endlessly memorialise itself.

Sutton makes an interesting point regarding the silence of Britain in kickstarting ‘the land theft, conquest, physical attrition and emotional trauma of the original Australians … which is our indelible legacy’ (199). However, it is his ongoing use of the word ‘conquest’ which continues to disturb me. I feel erased by it. His suggestion that Constitutional Recognition and changing the date of Australia Day to the first of January might work sometime in the future when an Aboriginal presence is but a distant memory. Such symbolic gestures in Australia only kick the can further down the road and further lighten the settler burden. While Sutton is correct in acknowledging the importance of AIAATSIS and figures like Henry Reynolds, Marcia Langton, etc., in reclaiming our history, this does not mean that anyone is paying attention. The dog-whistling Culture Wars, Howard’s refusal to apologise for the wrongs of the past, the paucity of Rudd’s apology perpetuates Australia’s ‘colonial-era delusion’ (140). As Sutton’s fellow-anthropologist Patrick Wolfe has so famously articulated, invasion is a structure, not an event. Contemporary Australia is a world leader in its incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Australia defies international protocols in incarcerating Aboriginal children as young as ten. Aboriginal mortality rates are of a third world standard, etc, etc. Contemporary Australia is largely oblivious to the cost of settlement. Oppression, repression, and suppression remain the handmaidens of settler societies. Settler Australia looks through a glass darkly, only knowing itself in part.

The nomenclature of this work, and archaeology and anthropology in general, disturbs me. In Appendix 1 reference is made to a work by R Wood et al., ‘Towards an accurate and precise chronology for the colonization of Australia’. I don’t think any historian would use the word ‘colonization’ in this context, nor would any Aboriginal person. I understand what is meant by ‘the Old People’ but I am concerned that its use in this book cuts me from my spiritual connection with the Dreaming. Where he describes the ‘pre-conquest’ period as ‘classical’ (4, 5, 65, 70), I think Sutton is using conventional anthropological terminology. For instance, Atholl Anderson uses the phrases ‘archaic’, ‘middle’, and ‘classic’ in his 2016 lecture on the Maori Middle Ages. However, in Aboriginal communities these divisions are deeply problematic and distressing. While invasion and settlement leave me bereft of land and language, I am spiritually aware of my place in the Dreaming. Despite being the flotsam and jettison of the frontier and not enshrined in a sacrosanct classical past, I resist invasion to the best of my abilities, just like the Old People.

I found the chapter ‘Spiritual Propagation’ to be quite rewarding in its documentation of Aboriginal cultural practices. Sutton provides many examples of the importance of Increase Ceremonies in caring for country, some that he has witnessed, some that others have witnessed. In a later part of the book Sutton relies perhaps too heavily upon historical sources in relation to the 1789 expedition of Governor Phillip up the Hawkesbury River. In part, this expedition was seeking land suitable for farming, but it was also a search to find the food sources of Aboriginal people living far from the coast. Part of the answer was found in the yam beds near the junctions of what is now the Nepean, Grose, and Hawkesbury Rivers. Hunter dismissed these yam beds as ‘wild yams’. While I am not qualified to offer an opinion on this matter, I do wonder whether Hunter, a master mariner, was a qualified judge of the differences between wild and domesticated yams.

I suspect that there is in Sutton’s writing a contradiction between his spiritual recognition (13) and the binary logic of empiricism and its exclusive hold over the nature of secular truth as evidenced in phrases such as ‘dreaming mythology’ (70) and the ‘spiritual propagation philosophy of the Old People’ (90) Literary theory tells us that the western canon is structured around internal oppositions and irreconcilable binaries. The sacrifice of Enkidu is a foundational myth of the settler narrative. Enkidu had to die. Enkidu was created only to bring peace to Uruk-the-Sheepfold and for Gilgamesh to accept his mortality and be a good ruler. In terms of cultural history, the Epic of Gilgamesh is not the birth of reconcilement, but of a particular way of representing the Other antecedent to Terra Nullius; its tragedy lies in the reader’s acceptance of Enkidu’s complicity in his own sacrifice as a man without people or country. The Epic of Gilgamesh erases indigeneity.

The risk of Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers? is that it becomes weaponised by the warriors of the Culture Wars to further disadvantage Aboriginal people. As an Aboriginal person robbed of land and language, I see in this book the perplexities of outliers caught between two irreconcilable ontologies, wanting, as Benjamin has it, ‘to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed’. Perhaps Peter Sutton and Bruce Pascoe should get together at the Dark Emu site and have a yarn around a fire about Healing Country.

 

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Barry Corr was a participant in the so-called 1965 Freedom Ride, worked for 20 years teaching history in low SES schools, and for twelve years in Aboriginal education. He continues to be involved in Aboriginal education, is involved in Shaws Creek Aboriginal Place in Yellomundee Regional Park, and is an Aboriginal stakeholder in the redevelopment of Thompson Square. He continues to advocate for a memorial to the Hawkesbury’s frontier wars. His writings on Aboriginal perspectives of settler-coloniality have been published in Meanjin, Overland, and Honi Soit.

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  1. Could it be Barry, that most academics are all about fortifying their rank or stature in academia, rather than telling the plain Truth?

  2. My writing focuses on the difficulties that settler society has in recognising itself. A lot of my writing revolves around 1 Corinthians 13:12, that’s the verse about knowing yourself, but the focus of the chapter is on Charity, loving kindness; which I think corresponds with the Aboriginal values of respect, responsibility and reciprocity. I want to live in a place that values education and its providers, whether they be teachers or academics. It is only through education that Australia will know itself.

  3. I’ve been using the words ‘conquest’, ‘conquer’ and ‘conqueror’ unreflectively although increasingly aware that they might not be the right words but not sure why. Now I know. I also now know a lot more about how to thread the line of respect and honor in writing about trouble. Thank you.

  4. This is such a beautifully written and nuanced piece. I will be coming back to it over and over again. The best I have read in response to Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers? Thank You.

  5. Thank you so much for writing this Barry. It’s about time the discussion moved beyond the slinging match over identity.

  6. SETTLING THE DARK EMU STOUSH
    6 August 2021
    by Catherine van Wilgenburg

    The Australian culture wars continue with the media scrum between Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu and Philip Sutton and Keryn Walshe’s Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers: the Dark Emu Debate. Add Andrew Bolt and his mob to the mix and you’ve got the typical binary rant all the media platforms love to fuel.

    So what about introducing, in the spirit of truth telling, a reserved English afternoon tea, originally an opportunity for women, excluded from the political process, from boardrooms and drawing rooms, to meet independently in a safe place and exchange ideas.
    Let’s also invite Bill Gammage, author of The Biggest Estate on Earth, to our afternoon tea to explore what Pascoe, Sutton and Walshe are endeavoring to say in their 288 page critique which took seven years to materialize after the publication of Dark Emu in 2014.
    And what about conversation and how might that afternoon tea unfold? Perhaps we start with asking why didn’t Pascoe quote the full context of some of his early settler observations to support the contention that First Nations people had a more complex relationship with the land and food than stereotypical hunter-gatherers? ….
    Tea Parties, the real place for history
    Bruce Pascoe, Peter Sutton and Keryn Walshe, along with Bill Gammage, gather to chat over afternoon at my place. I need to sort out what this gulf is really about. Why the fuss, when authors Sutton, Walshe and Pascoe, as well as Gammage, all celebrate Aboriginal hunter gatherer traditions and Australia’s rich Aboriginal cultural heritage in all its diversity?

    First, let’s loosen up with a Tasmanian cider called Way-a-Linah from the endangered cider gum tree (Eucalyptus gennil). It certainly gets them talking about pre-colonial Aboriginal use of alcohol and Maggie Brady’s research about pre-colonial fermentation practices throughout indigenous Australia. Sutton and Walshe, seem to know Maggie well through their academic connections and Pascoe, said the Way-a-Linah, was just another example of the need to challenge popular conceptions about the past.
    Pascoe agrees, that while there’s little doubt about Tasmanian Aboriginal mastery of fermentation, his own Tasmanian Aboriginal heritage is more difficult to prove. However, the absence of colonial historical records does not confirm that something is not true. And, while his Yuin heritage is widely acknowledged, the burden of written proof becomes a heavy one for many decsendants. Colonisation sought, not only to wipe Aboriginal people physically from the earth, it also tried to change and re-interpret the reality of people’s birth and family geneologies by altering or failing to record a person’s lineage.

    As their tongues loosen, Gammage asks Sutton and Walshe why they hadn’t got together with Pascoe before writing the book, Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers-the Dark Emu Debate? It’s not as if they were in different camps.

    Sutton, taking another sip on the Way-A-Linah pauses momentarily and then begins:

    I didn’t see Dark Emu until 2016, when I was given a copy during a native title hearing in Broome, where I was giving expert evidence. Being preoccupied by research, I put it to one side, regarding it as optional reading, being the work of an amateur student of the subject who had no apparent direct knowledge or experience of how the Old People made a living in times gone by”

    Sutton dips into his Warrigal Green pesto with the toasted Kangaroo grass bread from a local baker exploring the nutritional value of native grains.

    At this point Gammage asks Sutton and Walshe what took them till 2021 to publish. After all Bruce had already started as Enterprise Professor in the Department of Agriculture in Melbourne University in August 2020. Furthermore, the Victorian Truth and Justice Commission was established in May 2021,. It struck Gammage that the timing of their critique could be seen as just another battle in the culture wars .

    Sutton replies that it had nothing to do with the culture wars and was purely about intellectual rigour and accountability.

    It was not until 2019, when Dark Emu had taken on a celebrated status, that I gave it my full attention. I was deeply unimpressed, as I was with Bruce Chatwin’s ‘The Songlines’, which of course was a 1987 bestseller combining fiction and non-fiction. It popularised the notion of Aboriginal people singing the stories of the land but contained little understanding of Aboriginal culture. Nothing in my 50 years of research with senior Aboriginal people suggested Pascoe was right!

    Pascoe, until now sitting patiently listening and stroking his long white beard, responds. From his perspective he was simply showing how early explorer observations of Aboriginal life and society were ignored and so we have missed out on the truth:

    We’ve missed out on how to learn from Aboriginal people about grains and tubers that have evolved here in these soils and with these waters! Let alone Aboriginal governance of the land over millennia.

    Sutton then pinpoints Bruce’s omissions and inaccuracies in his reading of the early explorer texts while more food arrives; Warrigal Greens Pesto Chicken satay sticks with roasted Murnong topped with finger lime sauce alongside water ribbons salad.

    Walshe adds:
    Yum this is delicious. But it’s your picking and choosing the words to suit your purposes and presenting inaccurate information that I object to. I was appalled that in attempting to present Aboriginal people as more ‘advanced’ than was known, you used pejorative terms, such as ‘primitive’, ‘simple’ and ‘mere’ to describe the brilliance and complexity of hunter gatherer life. I still struggle to believe that this has happened. This is a resurgence of 19th century social evolutionist theory, which is what we’ve been demonstrating as an incorrect interpretation of pre-colonial Aboriginal society.

    Gammage interjects:
    But I’ve noticed that in ‘Farmers or Hunter Gatherers’, you also did the same thing when you missed out a passage in Mitchell’s description of panicum grass . So could you and Sutton and Pascoe pool your differences and write about applying past land management knowledge to the present, in acknowledgement of its genesis here in this land?

    Walshe replies:
    Much of my work has been in the Kunalda Caves in South Australia. If and when our research touches on food remains or evidence of food sources or production, I’d be keen to collaborate with the Murning Traditional Owners on their land to research their cultural memories of historical land and water management of the caves and surrounding land. It might lead to looking at this land in a new way.

    Pascoe suggests:
    Yes, we can plant degraded lands with grasses with their deep root systems, which means they’re sequestering carbon and maintaining soil health. This will forge a path forward for our food production systems, which is environmentally, economically and culturally sustainable. It’s one of the biggest challenges of our time. We can also learn from Aboriginal distributed decision making, in collaborations. We can learn to live with our differences and our similarities without invading each other!

    But for Sutton it’s a nice idea, all very idealistic but without substance! To him, this kind of popular writing about Aboriginal culture has become a cult of desire rather than about reality, and that Australians want to be soothed from colonial genocidal guilt. But he wishes Bruce all the best with such an imaginative proposal.

    Pascoe then comments on Keryn’s enjoyment of the Warrigal greens on roasted murnong and asks:
    Have you ever eaten bread made with kangaroo grass or other native grains? Come down to our farm on Yuin Country at Wallagaurah River and see for yourselves how we are re-learning about Mandadyan nallak or dancing grass and Kangaroo Wallaby and Spear grasses as well as tubers, Bulbine Lily and Chocolate Lily. And we’re brewing Mandadyan nallak grass into Dark Emu beer with Sailor’s Grave brewers in nearby Orbost. We’re employing Yuin people and we want to make sure there isn’t a second dispossession of these Aboriginal assets. We’re running a social enterprise ‘Black Duck Foods’. We’ve got restaurants and universities in Melbourne and Sydney researching recipes and the food science of the grains, tubers and water ribbons.

    Sutton replies:
    Thanks for the invite Bruce. I’d love to visit your farm and I applaud what you’re achieving. But coming back to your book Dark Emu and my beef with your research methods. I can’t agree with your approach to relearning traditional knowledge through grounded experimentation with what works on your land in present times. I think these are two entirely different categories of thought. It’s impossible to compare how the old people made a living with how you and your Yuin mob are experimenting with wallaby spear and kangaroo grasses.

    Pascoe then recommends Stan Grant’s words:
    Australian law sees us only as people of the past. Being Wiradjuri is not something I rediscover; our language lives in the now, not in the then.

    We certainly spoke our language while those January 2020 bushfires were raging and at the same time my detractors, were bagging my Aboriginal identity. I was out there fighting bushfires; my land was burning and we lost sheds and a harvest and lucky not to lose the house. We are speaking about our present concerns about how Yuin, DELWP , the CFA , Forest Fire and the East Gippsland Shire are working together. Climate change has brought into focus that dominant land management methods have to adapt if we want our country, our kids and their kids to survive. It’s not opinion, it’s fact.

    For Pascoe and the Yuin mob this isn’t a theoretical debate about methodology, it’s about connectedness to land, not just living on it. They invite Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to come and work on the farm to see how they’re re-learning the old people’s traditional knowledge, working for their children and grandchildren’s lives and for the next seven generations.

    Pascoe gets to the crux of the matter:
    You see, the difference between us, Peter and Keryn, is that I am Aboriginal, despite the denigration of my identity by all the detractors: Belgian Andrew Bolt, Palawa, Michael Mansell, Walpiri /Celtic Jacinta Price, Warrimay Josephine Cashman, and Bunurong/Boonwurrung Jason Briggs and others.
    I’m also a writer for as many years as you’ve been an anthropologist and archeologist. I’m not saying that your empirical research in validating Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge is weakened or less valid because of your Anglo Celtic or European origins or that your research methods are weaker than mine because I’m Aboriginal. What I’m saying is that there are different ways of knowing and that your methodology is not the only way. That’s not to invalidate my research or yours. It’s about working around multiple knowledge systems.

    Sensing the need to bridge these different ways of thinking, Gammage asks:
    So what will it take to bridge this gulf? I think we’re in agreement on the need to bury the social evolutionist theory for a start. I reckon it’ll take connecting with our local mob to know their family stories. If we live in an apartment to grow food on our balconies, and in our backyards; to know the soils and winds and fires and rains, where they’re coming from and how they’re changing moment by moment…. Now what an Australia that will be!

    Sutton responds:
    It’ll take applying scientific empirical research methodologies to establish the facts, real data, not imaginative rediscoveries, not romantic ideals founded on colonial genocidal guilt. It’ll take deep listening to the old people, with their spiritually based Traditional Knowledge and living memories; embedding this knowledge in schools and universities and communities all over Australia.

    And for Walshe:
    It’ll take understanding that the term ‘hunter gatherer’ is not inferior to ‘farmer’ and to know where that old paradigm comes from; to learn the history of indigenous cultures and their diversity throughout this continent;

    Pascoe in describing his current projects explains how he is bridging the gulf between academia and grounded research projects on country, into native foods and plants; bridging his hidden personal history with that of thousands of Australians with Aboriginal heritage, through his poetry, children’s books, and truth telling.

    It’s working with young people in Melbourne University so that we can open the door to greater collaboration with Yorta Yorta people at the Faculty’s Dookie agricultural campus in the Goulburn Valley region. There must be incredible indigenous flavours, salads, tubers and fruits that we can work on. So, we’re going to need land and we’re going to need a research facility that is Aboriginal-owned or has Aboriginal management.
    And at Queensland’s Southern Cross University the research and development of traditional Indigenous farming and foods for broader consumption is exciting.

    Australia has got away with taking everything from Aboriginal people for so long, appropriating everything, including art and land obviously. I don’t want Australians to dispossess us a second time by taking away our foods and the plants we domesticated all those years ago. I’m hoping they will remember where it came from and include Aboriginal people in the bounty that will flow from using Australian foods . There’s food and there’s language. It’s a double resurrection . . . And, in the wake of 2020, maybe this all sounds impossible, like a mad fantasy, a Utopia, but the seeds of 2030 are there. In fact, they’ve germinated in the fires of 2020 .

    Food is a way to bring people together.

    Catherine van Wilgenburg
    Catherine van Wilgenburg’s interdisciplinary collaborative EcoArts practice straddles painting, performance art, installation and community cultural development projects. It is inspired by relationships with Wurundjeri elders and environmental scientists at Iramoo Grassland Reserve, St Albans & Cairnlea in Melbourne’s West and now with Gunaikurnai elders in East Gippsland. She is a Director of EcoArt Systems Australia based in Metung, East Gippsland, Victoria.

  7. How did Gammage, Pascoe, Sutton and Walshe respond to your invitation to afternoon tea at your place?

  8. Controlling the definition of what was essentially a subjugated culture, the colonisers reserve the power to distinguish authentic aspects of the living tradition of the colonised.
    Frantz Fannon (1969) The Wretched of the Earth

    Thanks Barry & Catherine for these important contributions to key issues raised in the Pascoe / Sutton Walshe (SW) ‘debate’. Both of you are I feel too kind to SW who I see as contributors to culture wars even as they claim, in the guise of neutral experts that they are above such disputation. They are deeply culture-bound, and to my mind this cannot be distinguished from the violence of racism even if it is epistemic. They are scholars who research people who live beyond the nature-culture binary but come blinkered with belief that the corollary of that binary, human exceptionalism is a universal condition of reality. This amounts to a self-justifying claim of moral superiority by the invader.
    They are actively involved in two related projects closely enmeshed with colonisation and empire. These are continuing the justification and rationalisation of the colonisation project in Australia, and patrolling disciplinary boundaries ie gatekeeping especially of anthropology and related disciplines. Pays to remember the racist and pro-imperial history of anthropology as the Study of Mankind based on The Great Chain of Being. This discipline especially in the British Christian and Neo-Darwinism traditions was used in the service of naturalising invasion and continuing dispossession. An appropriate reflective ethical position for people claiming to work from within these disciplines is to own up to and heal the scars of what previous practitioners have wrought, no matter how well-meaning.
    SW are also at pains to strengthen the disciplinary boundaries against incursions from people and ideas that they judge do not deserve to have a voice – folk theorists like Pascoe and historians like Gammage. Authenticity like objectivity can only be guaranteed by properly trained dispassionate practitioners within these disciplines. The growing popularity of the Pascoe / Gammage conception of pre-contact First Nations achievement, especially agricultural, economic and intellectual are misguided and their popularity just a way of soothing colonial genocidal guilt.
    Another key issue this debate throws up is that of understanding and responding effectively to climate and ecological catastrophe. One important aspect is industrial agriculture and the degradation of land and water resources that it causes and the associated knock-on effects on climate and ecology. At least some of this degradation can be reversed by finding ways of including native food plants as substitutes for some of the introduced food crops. This is what Pascoe’s Black Duck Foods (using localised First Nations food knowledges publicised in Dark Emu) in partnership with other First Nations communities and organisations, Universities and farmers are doing eg, http://www.sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2020/06/30/native-grains-narrabri-researchers-meet-with-aboriginal-community-bruce-pascoe.html.
    There is no way that these developments are traditional First Nations ways of doing anything but there are key First Nations values of learning from Country, respect, connectedness, relationality, and localisation that inspire and guide these projects in the 21stt century.

    Associated Readings:
    Auerbach, J. (2021). Decolonial science. https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20210602122154852
    Gammage, (2021) The Great Divide. https://insidestory.org.au/the-great-divide-pascoe-sutton/
    Rose (2014) Arts of flow: poetics of ‘fit’ in Aboriginal Australia. https://www.jstor.org/stable/43895117
    Sutton & Walshe, (2021) The Trouble with History. https://insidestory.org.au/the-trouble-with-history/

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