Rednecks, Eggheads, and Blackfellas: A Study of Racial Power and Intimacy in Australia

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University of Michigan Press, 1999 - Social Science - 352 pages
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This lively book brings the reader close to the lives of people on a remote cattle station in Australia's Northern Territory, where black and white people's lives have been intimately intertwined over the span of eighty years. Gillian Cowlishaw makes startling and original arguments about race relations, showing how the policy of self-determination for Aboriginal peoples has had dramatic and unexpected results.
By tracing specific patterns of interaction on Australia's cultural frontier, this work illustrates how anthropologists, pastoralists, and government officials squabbled about Aborigines as they intruded into these "blackfellas'" country, controlled aspects of their lives, and dominated the way they were represented in the public realm. The ironic title hints that the difference between "redneck" pastoralists and "egghead" anthropologists is not so great as might be imagined. Aborigines were central to the projects of both kinds of whitefellas, each of whom claimed to know "their" others better.
Ultimately, Cowlishaw asserts that the social sciences' attempts to replace the concept of "race" with the concept of "culture"--as being more progressive, malleable, and politically neutral--have proved futile. The notion of deep seated and important differences between human groups has not been erased; rather, it is how they are rendered in analysis and in everyday life that is at issue.
This thought-provoking work will speak not only to anthropologists and those interested in Aboriginal Australia, but to scholars of race more generally, especially in the burgeoning field of whiteness studies.
Gillian Cowlishaw is Professor of Anthropology, University of Technology, Sydney. Ruth Frankenberg is the author of White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness.

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