Australian Aboriginal Studies: The Anthropologists Accounts


  • Gillian Cowlishaw


Of all the groups in Australia designated in terms of race or culture none has had their authenticity questioned as much as Aborigines. Popular con-ceptions as well as academic writings make an implicit or explicit division of Aborigines into two kinds. They may be termed traditional and non-traditional, part-Aborigines and full-bloods or those in the north and those in the south (cf. Langton, 1981). One category is commonly seen as more legitimately Aboriginal. The popular view that the 'non-traditional' or 'half-castes' are not 'true' Aborigines is widely recognised, but an-thropologists' complicity in such judgements is less obvious. There could be two reasons for such divisions. They could indicate that Aboriginal groups occupy such different structural positions in the wider society that they are not easily analysed within the same theoretical framework or by using identical research strategies. Alternatively, the Aborigines themselves could be perceived as so different racially or culturally as to preclude any analysis that encompasses both categories. This latter view has probably been the most pervasive both in anthropology and elsewhere, to the extent that the 'southern' or 'non-traditional' groups are sometimes denied inclusion in the category of Aborigines.