Community politics in Arnhem Land - Maningrida and Galiwinku (1939-1978)

  • David Megna Benn

    Student thesis: Masters by Research - CDU


    The study of European and Aboriginal relations in the post contact era has been riddled with over-generalisation and over-simplification, the result more of subjective rather than empirical analysis. This dissertation represents an attempt, albeit limited to a specific context and time frame, to redress this imbalance. It is concerned with an historical comparison between Maningrida and Galiwinku - two remote coastal Aboriginal communities in Arnhem Land - between 1939 and 1978. It is based around a conflict model in which the clear-cut separation between the analytical concepts of domain and domain separation (or the more general perspective of Aboriginal resistance or accommodation to European domination) have limited applicability. The thesis focuses on the "turbulent muddy waters" of cross-cultural contact and the pragmatic political adaptation accompanying it. It concentrates on the historical evolution of Aboriginal cross-cultural intermediaries and their varying roles as cross-cultural facilitators. This theme is further developed by an analysis of the relationships evolving between dominant individuals across both cultures and the importance of social interaction and "bonding" often subsuming the economic domain. Another important theme concerns the influence of rapidly changing government policy (externally derived and imposed) and the impacts of ideologically opposed European enclaves in the mission and government settlement environments. The thesis concludes that there was considerable variation in the political response to the European presence in Maningrida and Galiwinku , even though both communities were similar in size and established roughly at the same time within the same geographical region. It is suggested that this sort of variation, centred around differing historical and cultural factors, is symptomatic of Aboriginal and European relations - especially this century - and makes generalisation about their political and social relations very difficult.

    Note: Page 13 is not in original.
    Date of Award1994
    Original languageEnglish

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