31 May 2006
For those of us who learned the only Anthropology we know while at ASOPA and under the scrupulous and expert tutelage of scientists like Dr Ruth (Fink) Latukefu and Prof Charles Rowley, it will probably come as no surprise to learn of the institution's significant role in the study of Anthropology in Australia.
This has now been documented in the current issue of the Australian Historical Studies journal (Vol 37 No 127, April 2006), which includes a paper by social anthropologist Dr Geoffrey Gray reflecting on the crucial role of ASOPA in shaping Australia’s contribution to the science. Here’s an abstract of the paper, which is entitled The Army Requires Anthropologists: Australian Anthropologists at War, 1939–1946.
World War II had unexpected consequences for the development of anthropology in Australia; it led to a breaking of the hegemonic control exercised by the Sydney (University anthopology) department by the creation of, first, the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) and second, the establishment of the Australian National University (ANU).
Both institutions affected the way anthropology was practised and theorised, as well as removing the training of colonial field officers to ASOPA, the original raison d’etre for the Sydney (University) department. While the institutional consequences of the war are relatively well known, the work of anthropologists during the war and how their work contributed to the changes is less well known.