‘Closing the gap’ in good faith = attempting to arrive at mutual understanding = a commitment to a relationship of ongoing cultural reciprocity

An Ethnography of Stress: the social determinants of health in Aboriginal Australia (2011)


I ventured over the creek and down in to the basement of the (temporary-in-state-of-renovations) medical library at uni yesterday. I finally had an entire day to sit down and read an ethnography I’ve been wanting to read since it was (recently) published. I was so much more than not disappointed. This is what exceptional nay admirable anthropology looks like. This is what anthropology should look like.

This, Victoria Burbank’s latest ethnography, is one of those rare anthropological texts that speaks to the particular and the general in the most humanist or ‘humanistic’ kind of way – it is both moving and engaging as a rigorous ethnography and an intimate account of the human experience. It is also politically potent as a compelling account of what it is like – and what it feels like – to be an Indigenous person in Australia today.

I want to write more about this ethnography soon but, for now, will share only the concluding paragraph (from page one hundred and fifty nine):


‘That many non-Indigenous poeple care whether or not Aboriginal people fall ill and die far earlier than they might is, as I see it, one of the strengths of the Western way of being. Greater Australia, however, for all its good intentions, has nevertheless engaged in decades, if not centuries, of interventions into Aboriginal lives that too often have been ill advised, inadequately funded, and ineffective. The direction I would take for making the world a better place for both indigenous and non-indigenous people would be to ask just what “sharing” means and how genuine sharing might be achieved. I am not advocating a return to “primitive communism.” Nor do I think that sharing is limited to the equitable distribution of resources; I sense that it must also include some kind of mutual acknowledgement and dedication to a shared future. Whatever sharing might be, understanding how we might engage the depth of its possibility seems necessary to our times.”


Me: (*dies of admiration*) 



Filed under Anthropological Awesome, Anthropology, Indigenous Rights

3 responses to “‘Closing the gap’ in good faith = attempting to arrive at mutual understanding = a commitment to a relationship of ongoing cultural reciprocity

  1. Emma

    Hi Bree,
    Sometimes I visit your blog for a reminder of what faith in, and passion for, anthropology’s contribution to Australia looks like. I’ve come on a good day. Thank you.

  2. How lovely to hear, thanks. Reading Burbank’s ethnography certainly made my day also. I hope to post some further excerpts soon. Kind regards.

  3. Pingback: A cheer of congratulations and thanks to Michael Tomasello | Fieldnotes & Footnotes

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