Co-existent sovereignty
26 May 95 10:50 GMT+1000

Beyond imperial anthropology - partnership in action.


Can anthropology achieve an alliance with life in which the
whole of experience (and not 'faulty mental acts of the
Western tradition which have made it socially') becomes the
master from which we fashion our representations?

Would this require anthropology to abandon its alliance with
those modern day monasteries of sterile 'science' - unable to
admit that science is incapable to making sense out of life -
the universities? Yes!!

A new alliance is required which acknowledges the masters of
experience, and drops the pretence which props up Western
notions of superiority.

Anthropology in universities plays an active part in
supporting the grand edifice of pretence - a cult called
science - necessary for imposing Western life ways on the
whole of life.

Australia is a most interesting example.

The Western intellectual tradition, fashioned by aspiring
members of an elite (but themselves landless and without the
resources to allow them to escape from wage-slavery), insists
that the lives of Australia's First Peoples can be separated
in thought from the context of their living countries.

This act of violence paves the way for the operation of more
practical forces, which expropriate the resources of those
living countries as sacrificial fuel for the Western false
image of life.

First Peoples and their living countries form an inseparable
unity - and this requires a complete rethink of the Western
position. And a renewal of the reform of western life which
was postponed by the European grab of Australian resources.

Europe could never afford Australia.

But in place of the complete rethink, we get a holding action.

In place of Australian academic anthropologists insisting the
institutions they work for formally acknowledge that they are
founded on and fuelled by the expropriated resources of
Australia's First Peoples, we get more empty rhetoric about
how vital land is for Aborigines.

But what is the message conveyed to their students by their
failure to commit the whole of their Being to communicating
that information - by insisting that either their institutions
acknowledge this truth or they withdraw their support for the
institution. The pretence is continued that all is in order.

The message is that it is OK to follow the type of life
practices as laid down in distant British or American

Best practice academic standards? What about the standards
which originate from life and which insist that we do not
support ongoing genocidal regimes ?

Australia's academic anthropologists, by failing to insist
that their teaching is properly grounded, continue to provide
a very valuable service to the Anglo-Australian State.

We hear Anglo-Australian managers talk of 'Australia's vast
natural resources' - a new manchuria for Japan (with its own
version of worship for life's false image).

The Western category of 'nature' is itself highly political.
Senior lawmen of First Peoples insist that (irrespective of
Western notions of ownership) peoples lives are generated from
their birthright countries.

It would not do for the idea of the fundamental unity of First
Peoples and their living countries to be communicated properly
to the young minds seeking guidance from authorised experts.

Australia's First Peoples continue to be actively engaged in a
struggle for the recognition of their place in the management
of life - and this struggle extends well beyond what is
'permitted' by the Anglo-Australia managers.

Finding an echo in current Aotearoa/New Zealand events the
issue of co-existent sovereignty is on the agenda. Such a
notion is 'impossible' according to the 'either-or' logic by
which Western elites manipulate life.

The stock phrase "Impossible" is trotted out by the corporate
state managers and that is supposed to be the end of the
matter. The western tradition is frozen in a historically
peculiar position by decree!

What is the position of western intellectual craftspeoples?

Has anthropology learnt enough from life's masters - the
wisdom inscribed in the lived practices on non-western peoples
- to be able to incorporate the healing sense of 'both-and'
logic into the core of its practices, and to commit its
considerable resources to gaining acceptance of co-existent
sovereignty in Australia and elsewhere?

For those who wish to focus their energies on this issue, the
question of the co-existence of native title and pastoral
leases in Australia requires urgent attention.

Want to find out more?

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Contact Bruce Reyburn at

In Solidarity,
Bruce Reyburn
25 May 1995