Aboriginal Art, Identity and Appropriation: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Aboriginal Art, Identity and Appropriation

1st Edition

By Elizabeth Burns Coleman


206 pages

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The belief held by Aboriginal people that their art is ultimately related to their identity, and to the continued existence of their culture, has made the protection of indigenous peoples' art a pressing matter in many postcolonial countries. The issue has prompted calls for stronger copyright legislation to protect Aboriginal art. Although this claim is not particular to Australian Aboriginal people, the Australian experience clearly illustrates this debate. In this work, Elizabeth Burns Coleman analyses art from an Australian Aboriginal community to interpret Aboriginal claims about the relationship between their art, identity and culture, and how the art should be protected in law. Through her study of Yolngu art, Coleman finds Aboriginal claims to be substantially true. This is an issue equally relevant to North American debates about the appropriation of indigenous art, and the book additionally engages with this literature.


’This is an excellent and highly original book. It is written with verve and has a strong sense of direction that engages the reader in its argument. The issues of appropriation copyright and intellectual property in the context of the rights of Indigenous people have been major topics of concern in a number of disciplines including art history, law and anthropology. They have also been major topics of public debate and political and legal action. This book contributes in a balanced and original way to the debate and should enable a number of complex issues that are often entangled to be separated out and approached in a logical manner. It makes a major contribution to the philosophical interrogation of social theory.’ Howard Morphy, Australian National University, Australia 'Coleman's analysis highlights areas of ambiguity in copyright law and shortcomings in our understanding of intellectual property law. She argues that copyright law in its current form is not the right medium for the protection of Aboriginal art…Within the existing literature Coleman's thesis that Aboriginal art is insignia is very original and a valuable contribution to the debate on matters of Aboriginal art, identity and appropriation.' Australian Aboriginal Studies

Table of Contents

Contents: Series Editors' preface; Mapping the problem; Cultural appropriation; Culture and property; Domestic questions; Identity and images; Religion and significance; Art fraud and the ontology of painting; Applying the criteria for authenticity; Insignia and collective entities; Cultural vandalism; Interpreting Aboriginal claims as rights; Freedom of expression and insignia; Responding to Aboriginal claims; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Elizabeth Burns Coleman lectures in Moral and Political Philosophy at La Trobe University, Australia. She has held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Australian National University's Centre for Cross Cultural Research. She has lectured in aesthetics at the Australian National University, and published articles on cross cultural aesthetics and the ethical and political aspects of art, including appropriation, forgery, the use of nom de plume, and plagiarism.

About the Series

Anthropology and Cultural History in Asia and the Indo-Pacific

This series offers a comprehensive view of Asian and Indo-Pacific anthropology and cultural history. It carries studies from China, Japan, South-East Asia, South Asia, and the entire Pacific region, including Australia and New Zealand. Focusing mainly on detailed ethnographic studies, the series further incorporates pressing thematic work on issues of cross-regional impact, gender and globalization, precarity, refugees, and asylum-seekers, and alternative medical and wellness-seeking practices. The series aims to link anthropological theory with history and religious studies, with discussions of ritual, politics, religious change, and economics. Studies of adaptation and conflict in small-scale situations enmeshed in wider scale processes of transformation form a particular thematic focus. The series aims to reach a core audience of specialists in Asian and Pacific studies, but also to be accessible and valuable to a broader multidisciplinary readership.

If you are interested in proposing a book for the series please contact: strather@pitt.edu / pamjan@pitt.edu

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General