• working/reading

    I am reading through 'both ways' literature of Yolngu and non-Yolngu working their knowledge systems together. Alongside I am reading Lorraine Code's 2006 book Ecological Thinking. I am also browsing through blogs and discussions on knowledge work and community development.
  • About this Blog

    Here I post some of my work and thinking. It is a much harder task than I thought! It is an extension of my research on knowledge and difference connecting my experiences, reflections, formal written pieces, and hopefully friends and colleagues. As work and self cannot be separate this blog is both personal and intellectual. Comments are moderated because, while it is a site for collective work, it is not anonymous.
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  • February 2009
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Mother Tongue

One of my first experiences at Gapuwiyak was sitting in the Yellow House. It is painted green, but once upon a time it was yellow and its name, through its continual use and connection people, continues to be the Yellow House.

I was sitting in the Yellow House with the man who had adopted me as brother, his wife and his mother. They were talking. We were talking; every now and then in English but mostly Yolngu Matha. It was explained to me that my brother was speaking Djambarrpuyŋu, his mother Ritharrŋu and his wife Kunwinjku. They were speaking their own languages. My brother spoke Djambarrpuyŋu and Ritharrŋu (his mother’s language) but would not speak Kunwinku, although he understood it. His mother could not speak English nor understand it very well, nor kunwinjku, and his wife could converse in all but Ritaharrŋu. I have held onto this conversation across languages and the patience it required translating back and forth. It brings with it a feeling of awe toward something that is as complex as it is simple.

It was shock to see on the United Nations Atlas of Endangered Languages that both Kunwinjku and Ritharrŋu both feature. Kunwinjku is ‘unsafe’ and Ritharrŋu is ‘definitely endangered’. One hundred and eight Australian Languages feature on the Atlas, I think almost two in every hundred (2%) of languages in the Atlas are Australian. Soon we might be calling Australia the ‘wide brown land’, forgetting all other names for country and colours that have painted it.

For more on the Atlas go to: http://www.un.org.ua/en/news/2009-02-18-2/

and if you want to read more on Australian Languages go to: http://www.aiatsis.gov.au/, or perhaps

Google Groups: http://groups.google.com/group/foblmail

FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=35768410977

Snapshot 2009-02-23 20-06-23.tiff

[From Mother Tongue]


Yiŋiya’s Statement

In 2004 I met Yiŋiya. He was filming a ceremony working to used digital technology to maintain his and his peoples’ way of live. Since then I have been adopted by his younger brother and have come to know bits of this way of life, and the threat posed to it by the Intervention. Here is a statement made by him outlining a often not heard response to the current situation.

[From Yiŋiya’s Statement ]


There has been a funeral in the community recently. I have spent most afternoons sitting with men my age and older.

On one afternoon a man decided he would look after me, explaining what was going on and so forth. His grandson was with him, sitting on his lap. While the ceremony went on, the little boy was excited about something else. He was four. For ten or more minutes, his father took four matches out of a box, poked them into the ground, lit them, and sang happy birthday. The boy tried to get the words out, and despite and bilma, yiḏaki and singing a few meters away his rendition was wonderful. After a while, the father, needing to keep a few matches for his cigarettes, reduced the ritual celebration to one candle per song.

Another evening a man my age sat waiting. His young child on his knee. When the ceremony started the man hoisted up his child and carried him on his hip while he sang, played bilma and took the ceremony to the house. At the house he sat and carried on with the ceremony, still singing, still keeping the beat and still holding his child.

Children have inalienable right to sit on knees. The man sitting next to me tried to deny it. “Can we please sit separately” he said (of course no in English). The boys walked away only to have his little brother jump immediately into the lap of his father.

Sitting on her fathers knee a little girls takes his hand and makes his finger wobble her loose tooth. “Too many lollies” he said. Her eyes opened in shock and she sits up. “Yuwalk!”, she exclaimed. True. “Yeah” he sad nodding. Biting her teeth together she drew one finger across her throat as if cutting it, keeping her eyes wide. You could see her thinking, ‘my life will never be the same.’

[From Men]

working space


spectator epistemology

Reading Lorraine Code’s Ecological Naturalism.

Here Code is setting out Carson’s epistemology as exemplary. Contrasting it to the conventional epistemology she writes “Knowledge claims are propositionally formulable in an “5 knows that p” rubric (“Carson knows that this bird is a heron”) or multiples and elaborations thereof, and verifiable by revisiting the empirical evidence. In such a spectator epistemology, the self-reliant individual knower, …” p 95 YES! Spectator epistemology. This is what I feel I have been caught in. In Gapuwiyak it is hard to feel actively involved, and it seems that an epistemology based on observation is supported by Yolngu. It is too easy to fall back on or into a Western spectator epistemology. And self reliance, well that is key as you don’t feel you have much else some of the time.

Code, Lorraine. “Ecological Naturalism: Epistemic Reposibility and the Politics of Knowledge.” Dialogue and Universalism 5-6 (2005): 87-101.

[From spectator epistemology]