The Challenge of Indigenous Peoples: Spectacle or Politics?

Article excerpt

The Challenge of Indigenous Peoples: Spectacle or politics?

Barbara Glowczewski and Rosita Henry (eds) 2011

The Bardwell Press, Oxford, x+289pp, 24cm, ISBN 9781905622269

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List of contributors: Wayne Jowandi Barker, Jessica De Largy Healy, Barbara Glowczewski, Rosita Henry, Wolfgang Kempf, Jari Kupiainen, Stephane Lacam-Gitareu, Geraldine Le Roux, Arnaud Morvan, Martin Preaud, Dominique Samson Normand de Chambourg, Alexandre Soucaille, Anke Tonnaer.

Barbara Glowczewski is the Director of Research at the Laboratire d'Anthropologie Sociale (CNRS/ EHESS/College de France). Barbara has worked extensively in Australia with Aboriginal (1) peoples and has written many articles based on her extensive research as an anthropologist. Her colleague and co-editor Rosita Henry is Associate Professor at James Cook University. Both co-editors are research fellows with the Cairns Institute at James

Cook University, Cairns, North Queensland. Both locate themselves as academics, artists and anthropologists who have engaged themselves deeply with Indigenous communities and community concerns for decades.

This edited volume of essays weaves together established researchers and early career researchers who in some cases were finalising their doctoral works; some have spent decades involved in joint projects supervised by the editors and the highly respected Melbourne University academic Professor Marcia Langton. The volume is divided into two sections: Part One, The Paradigm of Indigenous Australians (which focuses on mostly Aboriginal Indigenous peoples from Australia) and Part Two, Interpretation and Reappropriation: From the Exotic to the Inalienable (which engages with a broader representation of Indigenous peoples from around the world). The early chapters start with peoples located or coming from remote areas and include clan groups from the Kija and Yawuru/Djabirr Djabirr in the Kimberley; the Yolngu and Yanuwa, Garrwa, Mara and Kurdanji from the Northern Territory; and the Warlpiri and Kukatja from the western and central desert regions. However, this is not where we end and it feels like a natural and important inclusion to then read the powerful descriptive chapters that address issues of authenticity, identity, representation and resistance as they are expressed and explored by a plethora of talented, successful and innovative urban Aboriginal, east coast and southern writers from diverse fields such as film and new media, visual and performance arts, activism and academia.

The underlying themes are described in articulate and critically reflective pieces that allow the fluid and multidimensional reality and the actual lived experiences of Aboriginal and Indigenous peoples to breathe within the broader issues that pervade all things Indigenous in relation to social justice, cultural production, political contest, and discourses around health and wellbeing. Rosita Henry sums this up well in the last chapter, 'Creative networks: The poetic politics of indigeneity', with this statement: 'If we conceptualise indigeneity as a category that is constituted between spectacle and politics, then the challenge for anthropology is to imagine the peculiarities of this "in-between" space as a lived sociality of intense socio-political engagement' (p.256).

The strength of this book is that despite the majority of the authors being non-Indigenous, within each of the chapters the voices of Indigenous peoples are distinct and presented as agents of their own lives, as producers and owners of their own cultures and conscious of the potential of using cultural performance and expressions of art, dance, story and new medias to both represent themselves as they wish to be seen and to present their issues to stakeholders, mainstream media and politicians directly.

This book was first published in French as De'fi Indige'ne (Indigenous Challenge, 2007). …