Continuum: The Australian Journal of Media & Culture
Vol. 3, No. 2, 1990
Communication and Tradition: Essays after Eric Michaels
Edited by Tom O'Regan

A distant constellation

Deborah Bird Rose

In this essay I speak from my experience with Aboriginal people on cattle stations in the Victoria River district of the Northern Territory, about 700 kilometres north-west of Yuendemu where Eric Michaels was working. I have not studied media communication in any depth; during most of my time in the north there has been no television or video to be studied. I am, however, fortunate in having encountered some of the world's great story tellers, so this is a story about stories and intersubjectivity.

Johannes Fabian's superb book Time and the Other [footnote1] has given us a profound understanding of anthropologists' construction of otherness. Taking time and space as reflexive co-ordinates, Fabian shows the western construction which asserts that distance in space is equal to distance in time: the further one goes from 'civilisation' the more one is able to encounter the 'savage'. He indicts anthropologists as purveyors of this cultural construct, and as persons who give the fiat of 'science' to relationships which are ethnocentrically construed and politically oppressive. Fabian's convictions derive from his profoundly humanistic belief in the possibility of an intersubjectivity which does not seek to dominate and is grounded in the recognition of shared time and space.

Anthropologists, it might be thought, have had unique opportunities to deconstruct this distancing equation of otherness. We who live with others in 'remote' parts of the world have shared our time/their time, their space/our space. We have found that from the point of view of the desert, for example, Canberra is a very remote place indeed. [footnote2] The history of anthropology in Australia has been, for the most part (certainly not exclusively), grounded in distance rather than dialogue. That is, until Eric Michaels appeared with a research brief that gave him ample scope for reversing traditional images and practices.

Eric said once that he went into the field of media communication because he felt it to be the most profoundly problematic arena of life in our time. For him it opened the possibility of analysing a social/communication field dialogically. He had encountered this issue forcibly when he was engaged in research with Pentecostal people in Texas. Working with a team of psychologists and sociologists, Eric's methods were criticised by his colleagues as unprofessional. He failed, (he said that) they said, to maintain a neutral scientific persona, and in fact answered questions which the interviewees put to him, and sought to engage them in discussion. [footnote3] Judging by the rather perturbed quality of his account of this experience, I would guess that he failed also to convince his colleagues of the value (human, ethical, and pragmatic) of his approach. [footnote4]

Here in Australia Eric was hired to examine the effects that setallite-borne television might have on remote Aboriginal communties. The project certainly offered the possibility of foregrounding and appearing to authenticate all the traditional stereotypes: what will a space age technology do to a stone age people? Eric spoke passionately and articulately (always) against the conventional discourse of unilineal evolution. His argument, stated regularly over the years, is this:

... very few people believe what anthropology teaches: that indigenous, small-scale traditional societies are not earlier (or degenerate) versions of our own. They are rather differing solutions to historical circumstances and environmental particulars which testify to the breadth of human intellectual creativity and its capacity for symbolisation. [footnote5]

By the time he got to Australia, he had gone beyond questions of dialogue during interviews, and was determined also to engage with people in very practical ways. Having come to the conclusion that meaning was to be sought among the social relationships of the viewers rather than in the 'text' of the program, [footnote6] he carrried the project forward in a radical attempt to decentre national information networks.

Mass communication is predicated on concepts of centre and periphery: sender and receiver. One pole constructs itself as the subject and constructs the other as the object. Paradoxically (and predictably), the technologies designed to overcome geographical distance generate social distances of a powerfully deforming kind, reducing those not at the centre to a position as the object of other peoples' stories, histories, and power. [footnote7]

A communication network based on an intersubjectivity which is not deformed would identify every link as both sender and receiver: sender/receiver - sender/receiver. This is precisely the way outback radio is used in vast areas of the NT and WA: as a network of multi-centred communications. [footnote8] Each small community has its own radio which is available for use to most, usually all, residents. Sending and receiving messages is part of daily life. The equipment is open to the world, and messages are unambiguously local - dogs and crows, kids and motorcars all get broadcast. The airwaves carry a wild cacaphony of messages; the voices are many and varied, sometimes addressing others for a specific purpose, and often, like the crows and dogs, simply asserting that they are there. Testing the territory, they announce their presence and ascertain that others are there too.

Power and otherness are the issues. Centred networks offer the proposition 'I, and you, but only as a part of me'. In sustaining this proposition they sustain their power to define the relationships. Multi-centred networks offer an egalitarian proposition: 'you, and I, and you...' David Turner, one the most brilliant of non-mainstream anthropologists, contrasts monistic and pluralistic dialectics. Monism (incorporation, centred systems) carries a phrasing: 'me - you - me over you, us'. Pluralism (accommodation, multi-centred systems) carries a phrasing: 'you - me - you and me'. [footnote9] The result is a political economy of accommodation: "a part of the one embedded in the other and vice versa without affecting the integrity of either" [footnote10]

David Turner describes Aboriginal Australia as a plurality of promised lands, each with its own chosen people. Each land had its own Law; none was subject to the Law of another. The continent was held together through information networks which probably date back to the Pleistocene. [footnote11] Dreaming tracks, songs, visual evidence; variation and differentiation; marriage, trade, reciprocal obligations; centres and tracks, circles and lines. Dreaming travels focus on place and action, and many of them are highly redundant. Law happened everywhere, and while no place is subject to another, many places follow the same Law.

Eric's research reversed stereotypes and power relations both in his methods and his analysis. The title of his television report, Aboriginal Invention of Television: Central Australia 1982-1986, neatly refutes every convention mentioned in his brief. Most profoundly, his research methodologies allowed the Yuendemu mob to assert some control over the despotism of distance which centralised media seemed designed to impose upon them.

At heart this was an attempt to learn what Yuendemu people might be able and willing to teach us about communication, and, at the same time, to teach them how to manage the technology which might allow them to communicate their understandings to others. It was a disruption of conventions and practices, designed to open a space in which some of the power of the centre might be grasped locally.

If there is one lesson to be learned from evolutionary theory, it is that times of crisis are also times of possibilities. This time, our time, is the time of everybody in the world. Paul Simon sings it with the grace of a poet:

These are the days of lasers in the jungle
Lasers in the jungle somewhere
Staccato signals and constant information
A loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires.
These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is a long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all.
The way we look to a distant constellation
That's dying in a corner of the sky [footnote12]

Poets, if they do it well, do it with ambiguity. Their words are open to the world. The way we look to each other has to do with images of person, place, power. It has also to do with the way we turn to each other for understandings - of power, place, personhood, and a shared sense of our lives on this earth.

When I went to the Aboriginal settlement known as Yarralin in September 1980 one of the questions in my mind was: how will people classify me? I had been in Australia long enough to know that Americans are perceived with some ambivalence - as noisy Yanks, as members and representatives of an inventive and energetic society, as cultural imperialists. What, if anything, did Yarralin people think about Americans?

The question of how I, or we, or all of us in the world, look to Victoria River Aborigines matters. From a professional point of view, it matters to me because what I learn is strongly dependent on who I am. Here I will only address the American aspect of my identity. It matters more importantly, however, because these people have a great many things of significance to say. Since 1883 when Europeans first settled the Victoria River district, a large part of their "historical circumstances and environmental particulars" [footnote13] have been determined by others. Their own construction of intersubjectivity, grounded (literally) in multi-centred systems, [footnote14] and their survival within a system of extreme domination have given them unique understandings.

Yarralin people categorised me as an American primarily on the basis of my accent and my own statement of my nationality. It took some time for me to realise that this categorisation carried a very specific moral valence, and that in marking this aspect of my identity they were making some determinations about the kind of person they expected me to be. The evidence was there long before I became fully aware of it. During the first week or so of my two year residence at Yarralin (1980-2) one of the old men told me to write to the President of America and tell him to send him some forty-four gallon drums of mange soap for his dogs. When I said that I didn't know the President, he told me to write to my father. When I said that I didn't know what mange soap was, he told me that even if I was ignorant, other Americans would know how to cure dog mange. To my discredit, I did not obtain any soap for him, although I did ascertain that (at that time) the particular mange which afflicted Yarralin dogs was incurable.

Americans, as I came to learn, were seen to be powerful, capable, concerned, and willing. Some stories are secret, too powerful, I believe, to be told publicly. Many, however, are 'okay'. Take the one about the big American boss. Usually unnamed, this personage is said to have travelled through the Victoria River district many years ago visiting cattle stations. At each place (because each place has its own story and does not have to rely on other place's/people's stories), he witnessed a series of events which taught him that all was not well with Aboriginal people. When he was taken for dinner, for example, he saw the white men sitting down at a table in a building, and he saw the Aboriginal workers take their food out to the woodheap. Having been educated, he reciprocated, offering some specifically American knowledge. He taught people how to use a western saddle and how to lasso cattle. When he left, he gave a promise. Hobbles Danayarri (now deceased), one of the most politically astute and humanitarian story tellers, described an exchange between Tommy Vincent Linjiyarri, who later became the leader of the Gurindji pastoral strike, and the American:

"You know, all these Australian people really bad men. We didn't know the Northern Territory. We only heard that Australian people took it away from you. You want it back?"
"You want help?"
"If you can give me help."
"All right."
They shook hands. [And the American said:]
"I'll help you. You keep going. Union strike [will be the way]." [footnote15]

Some people, some of the time, identify President Kennedy as the American boss. Aborigines throughout the Victoria River district and the Kimberley revere him as a powerful and generous figure who worked on their behalf. His death is believed, not unreasonably, to have been caused through purposeful malevolence. According to Tommy Vincent (now deceased), President Kennedy was shot with poison bullets. He lived long enough to get out of his car, race around in circles like a dog who has eaten strychnine, and make a dying speech in which he stated that he was done for and promised that his work would not die with him. Tommy Vincent asked me to tell him the story of what happened to the man who shot Kennedy, and after I told about Oswald's death he laughed and said, "now that's more like it!"

These stories derive from Victoria River peoples' experience of being invaded, conquered, and massively controlled. It is important to remember that until the 1967 referendum which allowed Aboriginal people unrestrictedly to become citizens in their own country, people on cattle stations were classed as inmates of institutions. The institutions were the stations, and within that circumscribed world European managers and owners enforced a reign of terror through the massive and brutal excercise of power. [footnote16] It is also important to remember that millions of dollars have been 'made' over the years from these peoples' land and labour, and through an indifference to government regulations and a manipulation of government subsidies which is best labelled criminal. [footnote17]

Riley Young Winpilin of Lingara, an outstation, put it this way:

Why government don't realise that? We did right thing for them, why government can't do right thing for us? We've been asking for land many many times. We've been talk, talk, talk. What we gotta do more? ...

He not just going to go over there and put his crowbar and shovel and stick it in the ground. That ground isn't wasted. It not belong to him, [it] belong to Aboriginal people, that ground. You just think back, if I go to England, somewhere there, if I take my crowbar and shovel there and if I stick it in, the crowbar and shovel. White man might say, 'where you come from?' 'I come from Australia.' 'Who told you to come out here? You shouldn't be around here. You shouldn't be taking everything. You gotta go back' See? That sort of law. He should have think back. Why you don't think back to the white man? White man think about right back. He don't just be the boss around here himself. He can't just put blackfellow in the back. Blackfellows've been owning all this country. He [Aboriginal people] was here for many many times. He knew where to go....

I made the white man rich. He got more money now. What the white man, crazy? And white man just get back to the land. And him reckon him the big government. That's through all blackfellow [who've] been working for him. Sweating. Through by bread and beef, trousers and shirt. Olden time I been working for that kind of old law. No big money.... Ah, we got trousers and shirt. Say, two or three trousers, two or three shirts. Three blankets, one calico, one net, one boot, one hat, not enough soap. Gotta make some soap ourselves. We gotta get a rock, smash it up, and get bullock fat, we can melt it longa drum, cut it up that fat, and smash it up that rock. Put some salt in it, inside, and put a little bit of kerosine, make it soap. And we got to cut it, cut it halfway. That kind of law we had, blackfellows had. White man had proper soap, bogey [bath] soap. Blackfellow had that rubbish soap. [Whitefellows used to reckon:] 'Ah well, him, he's the blackfellow, he can use that soap. We don't want to give it good one. You give him rubbish one. He don't know. He just lay on the ground all the time. If you give him good soap, he'll be lying on the ground like a dog.' Same thing like that.

And I've seen [known] white man. I've been working for white man. [He] used to cut the bread, cut bread, he didn't put it on the table. He used to just drop them on the ground in a line. Pile up on the ground, on the ground like a dog. Blackfellow used to come up and pick it up on the ground. Rubbish. That kind of law we've been living. [footnote18]

Throughout the Victoria River district Aboriginal people identify the source of the injustices under which they have lived, and continue to live, in the personage of Captain Cook, [footnote19] and more generally with English people. Listen to Hobbles:

And right up to Gurindji now we remember for you ... Captain Cook. I know. We're going to get a lot of people now. All over Australia. Australia, its belong to Aboriginal. But you made little mistake. Why didn't you look after London and big England? It's bigger than Australia. That's your country. Why didn't you stop your government, Captain Cook? You're the one bring it out now, all your government from big England. You brought that law. [footnote20]

Yarralin peoples' cultural logic asserts that that which exists owes its existence to its own place of origin. England is the place of origin of injustice, unrestrained greed, and a passion for destruction. The power to combat injustice also has its place of origin: America. Jimmy Manngayarri of Daguragu described the origins of the first English people and their cynical use of Yankee know-how. The first white man in the world, according to Jimmy, was named "Old Jacky Jacky Bandamara". The name itself tells a story of how Aboriginal stories turn the words of the powerful back on themselves. He described Jacky Jacky as "different" looking, but I am unable to state specifically what Jimmy thought he looked like; all he would say was that Jacky's photo can be seen in newspapers. The possibilities are staggering.

Wutuwarnguwaji [monkey]. That's where you breed up from, that wutuwarnguwaji now. We no more belong to wutuwarnguwaji. You different. We breed by Dreaming, whatever Dreaming been. We only got two birds - pangara [corella], emu. That's the way we breed longa this country.... You wutuwarnguwaji. That's your wutuwarnguwaji old Jacky Bandamara. That's what been start off longa you now. That's what we've caught your idea now, what you been doing. We catch up you late time now. There. [footnote21]

I think that when Jimmy referred to 'late time' he was referring to the fact that it is only since the children have been getting a European education (roughly since 1970) that they have learned about Europeans' own (scientific) view of their origins.

Jacky Bandamara was technologically impoverished:

Because he never had a rifle. He was living longa shanghai and bow and arrow, and sling. That's all he was using. He didn't have anything, nothing. Only just the bow and arrow, and shanghai, and sling. That's all he was using. [footnote22]

He went to America: "Because he never had a rifle. He only just got it over [in] America, [from the] union. He only just learned over [there]." [footnote23] From America he travelled back to England and made the guns which he used to invade Australia.

Americans are often identified with Unionists through a metonymic chain that links equal wages to social justice, unions with wages and therefore justice, and Americans with justice and therefore unions. A story from the 1920s concerns a manager of Victoria River Downs station, Mr Graham, who sought to introduce wages and was killed by the government. [footnote24] He too succumbed to malevolence, in his case delivered in the form of poisoned grog. Anzac Mungannyi of Pigeon Hole outstation told the story:

Mr Graham was here, manager. That's the union; that's made them [whitefellows] settle down [from the time of the previous manager when they were killing people regularly]. That's made them settle down - that Mr Graham....

Old Mr Graham used to serve them beef for dinner. He was all right. But they never gave him a chance. And they done wrong and put the trick for Mr Graham. He's the union. He passed away by VRD.... They did that, give him the strychnine. Because they knew. Because they were asking for [help for] Aborigines.

And we look at it this way. We [have] been long enough working cattle station.... And they couldn't put a good name on me. [They couldn't acknowledge] how we were making [the station] big and bigger. That's the way the white man went on all the time.... We're sick and tired now. [footnote25]

America is the source of a passion for justice coupled with the power to enforce that passion. Old Tim Yilngayarri (now deceased) explained that Americans had been, or would have wanted to have been, involved on the side of Aborigines:

Poison government grog. And twofellow, Mr Graham and [name not identified], drank one bottle. And twofellow there dead la VRD....

We were wanting [the] union. We [were] just waiting now for America, or unions, to come here and find out [that] we people [were] here. But we never get any proof for that word.

But nothing. We wanted to get pay. Manager got finished [off].... That's [what] the union was talking about. And [we] lost that word. And wefellow can't do nothing then.

But we were looking at American bloke, American union. Looking at, looking at, looking at, looking at - Ohhhhhhhh CHRIST! We wanted to - if that union had come, kept going like that: they can teach the word [to the white people] in this country. Proper word! [footnote26]

Yarralin people also tell stories that place the kinds of power they are seeking to understand right here in Australia. Some stories indicate in passing that the Unions were here before Captain Cook ever came, and that European settlers followed the wrong 'book' or 'law'. The stories of Ned Kelly's travels in the Victoria River district tell of an indigenous European passion for justice. [footnote27] As far as I know, these stories are only told by old men. This could mean that they are very powerful; alternatively, it could mean that they no longer communicate a truth for younger people. In 1990 either view is possible - stories in decline, or stories with the potential for power.

Prior to European invasion, power, as I understand Dreaming stories, was invariably local. Like law, power happened everywhere. [footnote28] Lattas, in his study of cargo cults in New Britain, defines this type of concept as an "inward and substantive indigenous power" and contrasts it with "an outward transcendental colonizing power". [footnote29] Hobbles stated the matter very clearly; as usual, he added a political punch which took a swipe at the primary local purveyors of an ideology of transcendent power:

Everything come up out of [the] ground - language, people, emu, kangaroo, grass. That's Law. Missionary just trying to bust everything up. They fuck 'em up right through. Gonna end up in a big war. Before, everything been good - no war, no missionary. [footnote30]

One way of hearing these stories is of how they displace power. No longer is Australia the source and subject of its own power and history. Rather, the continent and the people become objects of other peoples' power and history. Hobbles spoke to the economic side of this relationship when he spoke of Captain Cook "running minerals" out of Australia and back to England. In contrast, stories of Ned Kelly and the Australian unions seem to attempt to autochthonise power as it is exercised through colonial domination. The purpose is to master such power by massively decentring it.

An alternative, but not contradictory, way of understanding what I have termed displacement is as a message of place. Australia once was the whole of the known world to most Aboriginal people. Invasion expanded the possibilities of geography, and thus of place, law and power. That the settlers followed the wrong book does not obviate the fact that in expanding geography Yarralin people offer possibilities: that places can interact equitably because they are (potentially) social equivalents. The possibility exists for a part of each in the other without loss of integrity to either. [footnote31] Jimmy put the proposition as a question:

Why he never say: 'Oh, come on mate, you and me live together. You and me living together, mates together.... Mate together. Live together. One mangari [food; literally non-meat foods]. One table. Cartem up wood together. No more fighting one another.... You and me can work for the country all the same then.' I might want to go this way down to Sydney, longa your country where you been born, well twofellow be fifty [sharing equally] on country. You can go this way down to England, you can go over there, and back from there, well you'll be fifty.

But you never do that. You decided to clean the people out [eradicate them] from their own country. Ngumpin [Aborigines] never been go and kill you there longa England. He never made a big war longa you there, finish you there. NO! You did the wrong thing, finishing up ngumpin. Like that now, no good that game. Well, you made it very hard. [footnote32]

The power to dominate includes, and may be dependent upon, the power to construct living subjects as objects. It is a distancing that takes a dual form; people come from the outside in order to kill and steal, and they deny that this is what they are doing. And while the killing and stealing have been moderated (not eradicated) over the past two centuries, denial persists in a particularly pungent form: the successors to the invaders can and do refuse to listen. They turn stories back on the speakers, not by denying them for that would at least be a form of engagement, but more simply and with greater devastation, by not listening.

Mass communication adds another dimension to this story. Giving voice to the centre, all of us who are elsewhere (geographically, politically, culturally) are constructed as receptors. The implicit message is that we have nothing worth saying. Riley Young, in frustration, said it this way:

I'm speaking to government today. What about you realise for this place today. I'm speaking to you. All you government. How many times I been talking for this land. What about you realise and do something help for me? ... Because I know this Law. Aboriginal people follow this Law now. You know, because we know this land. We know so much.... Don't reckon Aborigines only muck. We know. [footnote33]

European societies and their progeny have for a millenium or more constructed others as distant constellations of people whose choices are incorporation and/or death. That the people, societies, and cultures who die do so in remote corners of the planet is, of course, a relative proposition. It is also completely flawed. Relations of power based on monism can expand to flourish massively at the centre, but there is only one earth. This is not a hypothesis; the evidence is all around us. The flaw lies in imagining that what is being generated is life. [footnote34]

Analytically there is a minimum of two poles to intersubjectivity: subject - subject. Distancing, in the hands of those with the passion and power for conquest, mutilates one pole, turning it into an object. Equally, although rarely addressed in precisely this way, distancing mutilates the pole of power. The self-identified subject spins off into a universe of entropy and alienation, becoming fixed in a dialectic through which entropy is resisted through control which produces more entropy and requires more control. Alienation - the distance between the poles - increases geometrically as the powerful attempt to position themselves in life-sustaining relationships through the irremediably defective practices of objectification and control. We might refer to this deformed subjectivity as object reflexivity, [footnote35] for the damage works both ways and is inscribed in the minds and bodies of almost of all of us.

The way these things look to Yarralin people is as an unrestrained passion for destruction let loose upon the world. 'These are the days of lasers in the jungle'. These are also the days of chainsaws and bulldozers. As Riley Young said:

I'm sick of it! Too much! If I get out of the place, what's going to happen? What's going to happen to the place? They gonna damage the place. They going to damage the ground. They going to damage some tree, or they gonna smash all the rocks. [footnote36]

Daly Pulkara, also of Lingara, managed to say it all in just a few words: "We'll run out of history; kartiya [Europeans] fuck the Law up and [they're] knocking all the power out of this country." [footnote37]

The negative spaces generated through defective practice must be grasped, inhabited, and opened to the world if distance is not to transform us into a small planet dying in a corner of the sky. Stanley Diamond [footnote38] calls this necessity a search "for sacred spaces in which to live," and for the means "to recreate culture as communion." The Australian Aboriginal genius lies precisely in producing and reproducing sacred space and in empowering communication (and communion). In his brilliant analysis of Warlpiri graphics, Eric says that that representational system is "as close to what we call writing ... as you can get without compromising the authority of human speakers and interpreters..." It is a writing system "which does not subvert the authority of living people..." [footnote39] I would add to this, expanding the propositions temporally, spatially, and culturally to say that during some 50,000 years Aboriginal people developed an intersubjectivity that includes all living things as well as the earth, [footnote40] and in which the passions of living serve to empower life.


1. Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other. How Anthropology Makes its Object (Columbia University Press, New York, 1983)

2. Eric Michaels, The Aboriginal Invention of Television in Central Australia 1982-1986 (Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, 1986).

3. Eric Michaels, nd "The Dialogic Interview: A Reactive Technique", mss.

4. This manuscript bears a note which reads: "Obviously a working draft: may not be quoted, discussed, mentioned or stolen." I have only mentioned it; three out of four is not bad.

5. Eric Michaels, "Aboriginal Media History: An Inverted Sequence," Paper presented to the 1986 International Television Studies Conference, mss. 1986, p. 4.

6. See Jay Ruby's contribution to this volume: "The Belly of the Beast: Eric Michaels and The Anthropology of Visual Communication".

7. I have borrowed the concept of being an object rather than a subject of history from Weschler's discussion of Halina Bortnowska's use of this distinction in analysing recent Polish history. See L. Weschler, "The Path of Most Resistance", Village Voice, Jan. 2 (1990), pp. 42-4.

8. I am indebted to Kevin Keeffe for pointing out to me that outback radio, the 'chatter channel', offers an ideal example of an alternative to mass communication.

9. David Turner, Life Before Genesis, A Conclusion. An Understanding of the Significance of Australian Aboriginal Culture (New York: Peter Lang, 1987), pp. 99-101.

10. David Turner, "Transcending War. Reflections on Australian Aboriginal Culture," Anthropology Today, Spring, 14-16 (1987), p. 14.

11. See D. Lewis, "The Rock Paintings of Arnhem Land, Australia. Social, Ecological and Material Culture Change in the Post-Glacial Period," (Oxford: BAR International Series 415, 1988).

12. Paul Simon, 'The Boy in the Bubble', Graceland Album.

13. Michaels, "Aboriginal Media History", p. 6.

14. C.f. Deborah Rose, Dingo Makes us Human, Life and Land in Aboriginal Australian Culture. In press, Cambridge University Press, 1990.

15. Hobbles Danayarri, dictated, 1982. In this and subsequent quotations of Aboriginal speakers I have made slight alterations to the grammar in order to facilitate comprehension. My purpose derives from Yarralin peoples' statements that they wanted to communicate with people beyond the their local area. Many people expressed a particular hope that Americans would encounter their words.

16. Cf R. Berndt & C. Berndt, End of an Era; Aboriginal Labour in the Northern Territory (Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, 1987), p. 124.

17. Cf F. Stevens, Aborigines in the Northern Territory Cattle Industry (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1974).

18. Riley Young Winpilin, Taped, 1982.

19. Cf Deborah Rose, "The Saga of Captain Cook; morality in Aboriginal and European Law," Australian Aboriginal Studies, 2 (1984), pp. 24-39.

20. Hobbles Danayari, Taped, 1982.

21. Jimmy Manngayarri, Taped, 1988.

22. Ibid.

23. Ibid.

24. In these stories 'government' is often identified with Gilruth, NT Administrator at the time of the major union action (1912-1919). Gilruth was actually forced to flee Darwin in what is sometimes referred to as the Darwin Rebellion.

25. Anzac Munganyi, Taped, 1982.

26. Tim Yilngayarri, Taped, 1982.

27. Deborah Rose, "Ned Kelly Died for Our Sins", Charles Strong Memorial Lecture, Australian Association for the Study of Religions, Underdale, 1988; and "Ned Lives!", Australian Aboriginal Studies, 2 (1989), pp. 51-8.

28. Cf Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality. An Introduction (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1978), p. 93.

29. A. Lattas, nd "Sexuality and Cargo Cults: The Politics of Gender and Procreation in West New Britain," Cultural Anthropology forthcoming. MSS, p. 30.

30. Hobbles Danayari, dictated, 1982.

31. Turner, op cit.

32. Hobbles Danayari, dictated, 1982.

33. Riley Young Winpilin, taped, 1982.

34. Cf Anthony Wilden, System and Structure: Essays in Communication and Exchange (2nd Edition). (London: Tavistock, 1980[1972]).

35. Karl Marx was getting at a similar point in his analysis of commodity fetishism. I am aiming for something more expansive because the issues have expanded exponentially.

36. Riley Young Winpilin, taped, 1982.

37. Daly Pulkara, dictated, 1986.

38. Stanley Diamond, In Search of the Primitive. A Critique of Civilization (New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1974), p. 357.

39. Eric Michaels, "Hollywood Iconography, A Warlpiri Reading," in P. Drummond & R. Paterson, eds., Television and its Audience: International Research Perspectives (London: British Film Institute, 1987), pp. 109-124.

40. Cf Rose, Dingo Makes Us Human.

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