1st Edition

Mortality, Mourning and Mortuary Practices in Indigenous Australia

ISBN 9780815346753
Published December 18, 2017 by Routledge
264 Pages

USD $44.95

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Book Description

Drawing on ethnography of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia, Mortality, Mourning and Mortuary Practices in Indigenous Australia focuses on the current ways in which indigenous people confront and manage various aspects of death. The contributors employ their contemporary and long-term anthropological fieldwork with indigenous Australians to construct rich accounts of indigenous practices and beliefs and to engage with questions relating to the frequent experience of death within the context of unprecedented change and premature mortality. The volume makes use of extensive empirical material to address questions of inequality with specific reference to mortality, thus contributing to the anthropology of indigenous Australia whilst attending to its theoretical, methodological and political concerns. As such, it will appeal not only to anthropologists but also to those interested in social inequality, the social and psychosocial consequences of death, and the conceptualization and manipulation of the relationships between the living and the dead.

Table of Contents

Contents: Series Editors’ Preface: The transformative processes of life and death, Andrew Strathern and Pamela J. Stewart; Introduction: indigenous ways of death in Australia, Victoria Burbank, Katie Glaskin, Yasmine Musharbash and Myrna Tonkinson; 'Sorry business is Yapa way': Warlpiri mortuary rituals as embodied practice, Yasmine Musharbash; Solidarity in shared loss: death-related observances among the Martu of the Western desert, Myrna Tonkinson; Death and health: the resilience of 'sorry business' in the Kutjungka region of Western Australia, Brian F. McCoy; Time wounds: death, grieving and grievance in the Northern Kimberley, Anthony Redmond; A personal reflection on a Saltwater man and the cumulative effects of loss, Katie Glaskin; Social death and disenfranchised grief: an Alyawarr case study, Craig Elliott; 'Promise me you'll come to my funeral': putting a value on Wiradjuri life through death, Gaynor Macdonald; Death, family and disrespect in a Northern Queensland town, Sally Babidge; A place to rest: dying, residence, and community stability in remote Arnhem Land, Marcus Barber; A life in words: history and society in Saibai Island (Torres Strait) tombstones, Richard Davis; 'We don't want to chase' em away': hauntology in central Cape York peninsula, Benjamin Richard Smith; Afterword: demography and destiny, Frances Morphy and Howard Morphy; Glossary; Index.

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Katie Glaskin is a Lecturer, Discipline of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Western Australia. Myrna Tonkinson is an Honorary Research Fellow, Discipline of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Western Australia. Yasmine Musharbash is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Discipline of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Western Australia. Victoria Burbank is Associate Professor of Anthropology, Discipline of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Western Australia.


’Contemporary Aboriginal communities spend vast amounts of time and resources on ceremonies connected with death. This important book with its sensitive portrayals and insightful analyses enables readers to see why. It is essential for understanding how Aboriginal control of events at the end of life supports both grieving individuals and cultural integrity.’ Nancy Williams, University of Queensland, Australia 'This volume is an important contribution to the anthropology of death. It provides both timely and thorough ethnographic accounts and analyses of how Indigenous Australians handle and manage extremely high mortality rates. These studies offer a much better understanding of the social consequences and human dimensions of dealing with bereavement in everyday life than bare statistics ever will.' Eric Venbrux, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands 'By raising the question of why indigenous people make so much of death, this collection portrays the use of mortuary practices as symbols for a struggle for the preservation and affirmation of indigenous lives and identity...these studies address criticisms of the anthropological tendency to prioritize ritual at the expense of the grieving individual.' BSA Network 'This book contains some beautifully written ethnography...It is the kind of work that can be read again and again from different angles, as it touches on cross-cultural relations and policy issues, psychology, theology and that most fundamental of human questions of what constitutes a good life and a good death.' Aboriginal History '...a timely and informative book that will enrich Aboriginal Studies and, potentially, refine and challenge popular views about the "unviable" state of Indigenous communities.' Oceania 'These essays should be read by a large audience both in Australia and elsewhere.' Reviewed in Athropological Forum '...a valuable contribution to anthropological understandings of indigenous experience in Australia.' The Journ