The Yolŋu case: Evidence that Exchange Theory can be Poetic


Today has been a day of sentence-level tinkering with Chapter 6. This is the chapter in which I introduce and offer translations for the most common terms associated with morality and exchange on the Homelands.

The following is taken from my current working-draft of the aforementioned chapter ~ tis but one example of how poetic is the local language of exchange.




The complete expression, ‘buku-bak-thun-marama-nha-mirri’ , is comprised of the idiom ‘buku-bakthun+ the suffix ‘marama’ , which denotes the agentive (i.e. indicating an agent or agency) and the suffix ‘mirri, which here denotes the reflexive reciprocal form of the verb (i.e. the action is performed mutually).


The idiom ‘buku-bak-thun’ is comprised of ‘buku’ meaning ‘forehead’ or ‘will’ + the transitive verb ‘bak-thun’ – ‘to break [off], to break [a whole] into pieces.’ A literal translation would be something like ‘to break one’s forehead or will into pieces.’


‘Buku-bak-thun-marama-nha-mirri’ thus refers to a form or state of exchange in which two or more people mutually accede to one another (or yield to one another in the case of material exchange).


Like most terms and concepts associated with normal, healthy, desirable social relations in Yolŋu matha – it refers to a state of relations characterized by mutual interdependence and dynamic reciprocity.


Poetic and politically pretty damn sexy. This is part of what I refer to as the local Yolŋu theory of exchange.


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Filed under Anthropology, Thesis/Yolngu related writing

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