“... same but different ...”

ISBN 978-3-89645-203-0

“... same but different ...”

Vom Umgang mit Vergangenheit. Tradition und Geschichte im Alltag einer nordaustralischen Aborigines-Kommune

Author: Britta Duelke. Series edited by: Beatrix Heintze, Karl-Heinz Kohl.

Series: SzK Studien zur Kulturkunde Volume 108

299 pp.
5 maps, 2 genealogical charts, 1 figure
Text language(s): German
Format: 170 x 240 mm
640 g
€ 69.80

Tradition and history are central terms in anthropology. Hitherto very few studies have actually delt with the definitions and connotations of these core concepts, although the distinction often becomes crucial when applied in legal or political contexts. Drawn from long-term research in a northern Australian Aboriginal community, the case studies presented in “... same but different ...” provide the basis for epistomological as well as practical critique, analysis and discussion of these concepts and for the theoretical elaboration of more precise definitions.

Central to the book is an analysis of the everyday life of an Aboriginal community dealing with the impact of land grants und the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territories) Act, 1976: how people understand, interpret and integrate the granting of land as a result of formalized legislation; how they operate with this legislation in their everyday lifes; how it influenced relations to land as well as local conceptions of the past. Certain legal provisions have led to some lively communal examinations of ostensibly established notions of tradition and history, thereby revealing supposedly static structures to be highly dynamic.

Beyond politics and legitimation, the local reconstructions of history and tradition provide people with meaning, sense and orientation in a world of continuous change. The creation of the past, however, involves much wider social processes, which are determined by and related to the present. In order to approach the conceptual foundations of tradition and history, the author focusses on the present as a framework for the active and constructive creation of the past.


Duelke uses her material to develop a sustained and at times stimulating scholarly engagement with debates about tradition, change and modernity among historians, in hermeneutic philosophy and phenomenology and among anthropological approaches to social structure and social change. This includes some of the difficulties in accounting for change which have troubled anthropologists like Sansom and Sutton during land claims in the region. Above all, her focus is on the way tradition dynamically adepts as people engage with external influences and deal with internal tensions, and on the way possibilities for action and interpretation are shaped by the various reifications of law and bureaucracy and by the myths, the ‘jargon of authenticity’ concerning Aboriginality which are produced in the wider public sphere.

Gary Robinson in The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 11(2)/2000, 238-240

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