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People and Change in Indigenous Australia$
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Diane Austin-Broos and Francesca Merlan

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780824867966

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824867966.001.0001

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Reconfiguring Relational Personhood among Lander Warlpiri

Reconfiguring Relational Personhood among Lander Warlpiri

(p.81) Chapter 4 Reconfiguring Relational Personhood among Lander Warlpiri
People and Change in Indigenous Australia

Petronella Vaarzon-Morel

University of Hawai'i Press

In recent years many Indigenous communities in central Australia have undergone multiple dramatic changes. Responses to the resulting tensions, conflicts and anxiety illuminate local understandings of personhood. Drawing on long term ethnographic fieldwork with Lander Warlpiri/Anmatyerr Willowra (Northern Territory), this paper discusses how relatedness (involving social obligations and reciprocity) among particular categories of persons was understood and maintained during the 1970s, comparing this with the contemporary period, in which considerable conflict between previously united families has occurred. It considers the implications of these differences for notions of personhood, taking into account the altered material conditions in which people live today, changes in practices such as marriage arrangements and ritual, shifting notions of “property”, and embodied relations to land. Local cultural understandings of relational being are explored through analysis of a myth that was publicly performed by a senior male and recorded by young media trainees, with the intent that the younger generation reflect upon what it is to be a person in Warlpiri/Anmatyerr society today.

Keywords:   Warlpiri, personhood, relatedness, reciprocity, property

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