Rod Hagen (
Tue, 29 Nov 1994 10:19:09 +1000

In article <3aqttn$>, wrote:

> In article <3alb88$>, (Bterr) writes:
> >
> > You're right to state that notes can be subpoenaed. So can tapes and
> > photos.
> > You're also right to tell people to be careful what they write. However,
> > obstructing an investigation can be a felony and have major consequences
> > for years to come.
> >
> > NEVER advise anyone to break the law--that's conspiracy.
> >
> > The best thing to do is warn your students that their actions have
> > consequences and inform them of those consequences. They can then make
> > their own decisions about what to do with their data.
> You missed my point. I believe sufficietly strongly that I and my potential
> students should protect the confidences which our informants have given them
> that I am willing to engage in conspiracy. If someone wants to send me
to jail
> for it or if it will "have major consequences for years to come," well that's
> the price I am paying to be an anthropologist and to study what I want
to study.
> I think there are costs far more important than my career, or my
freedom. The
> first, and most important of them, is the freedom of those people who kindly
> agree to open their lives to me. If I turn over my notes, then I have
> people who thought they could trust me, and who gave me information that they
> didn't have to give me. If I didn't believe that, I'd be doing
something else.
> Julia Smith
> University of Pittsburgh

Unfortunately the earlier correspondence on this issue does not appear on
my newsserver (any chance of a re-post?).

The issue is one of major importance in Australia, where Anthropologists
have been involved substantially in court proceedings in the course of
Aboriginal land claims, and are likely to be involved even further as a
result of passage of the Native Title Act.

Anthropologists have already had materials demanded by the courts in the
course of the land claim hearings in Australia and this will almost
certainly occur again. The issue here is a particularly sensitive one,
given the "secret . sacred" nature of much aboriginal information
concerning sacred sites / mythological material etc.. Cases have occured
in the course of non-legal publication of anthropological materials where
publication of such stuff has reulted in physical injury. (In one case
some years ago for example a girl in Central Australia was physically
injured after she was provided with an anthropological text detailing
secret / scared information by an unwitting / uninformed teacher).

The difficulty then is that the provision of secret / sacred information
is often fundamental to the establishment of Aboriginal cases for
recognition of their interests in land. Anthropologists are usually the
people required to obtain such information and furnish it to the courts.
Those involved in the process find themselves continually caught between a
desire to provide the best possible materials relevant to cases which have
real value for the Aborigines concerned and a desire to avoid breaching
traditional laws concerning confidentiallity etc., which in turn can have
serious negfative consequences.

At present the problem is exacerbated by the fact that decisions about
what will happen to information which appears in the courts is made after
the event, by the courts.

It seems to me that there is a real need for resolution of such problems,
probably through some formal proces of recognition of confidentiallity
requirements imposed by traditional law, to provide both Aboriginal people
and anthropologists with a measure of protection from the dangers of, on
the hand, imprisonment and, on the other, implication in socially and
physically destructive processes.

Thoughts of others appreciated!

Rod Hagen