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A memento of ASOPA’s final golden year

How a home-grown discipline was forged

Cautious_silence When I met Dr Ruth Fink Latukefu in the common room at the Macleay Museum last week, she was brandishing a copy of Dr Geoffrey Gray’s latest book, ‘A Cautious Silence’. It was, in the circumstances of an exhibition featuring the first generation of Australian anthropologists, an apposite choice of reading.

In this book, Geoff, who will we hope later this year begin work on the first definitive history of ASOPA, explores the foundations of modern Australian social anthropology, examining the forces that shaped it and revealing the struggle to establish it as an academic discipline.

He argues that to achieve this position, anthropologists had to demonstrate that their discipline was the predominant interpreter of indigenous life. Having done this, they were able to assist government in the control, development and advancement of indigenous peoples especially in Papua New Guinea and Australia. Indeed, it is arguable that, without an Australian Anthropology, there may have not been an ASOPA – although this is my conclusion not Geoff’s.

You can find out more about ‘A Cautious Silence’ and also read a chapter from the book by visiting this website.

‘A Cautious Silence: The politics of Australian anthropology’, Geoffrey Gray, Aboriginal Studies Press, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra, August 2001, paperback, 304 pp, RRP $39.95

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