Jon Altman and Stephen Muecke: Extraction economics and Indigenous transformations

Seminar Series,  18 May, 2012
Hosted by the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies

Stephen Muecke
With the prospect of new industries, starting with a major gas plant, the Indigenous population of Broome finds itself under pressure and internally divided. I have started working again with Goolarabooloo, who are opposed to mining on their Dreaming. Their struggle has had the effect of reviving forms of culture, that take contemporary shapes (protest camps, activist tourism, social media, rock concerts), but are always strongly linked to the traditional culture. With national and international attention focused on Goolarabooloo, my study will analyse the transformation of this confederacy of language groups in the context of industrialisation (starting with pearling in the 19th century) and tourism.

Stephen Muecke is Professor of Writing at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. He worked with Paddy Roe to write the award-winning Reading the Country (1984) and Gularabulu (1983).

Jon Altman
There are increasingly dominant political and bureaucratic views dialectically echoing corporate perspectives and public discourse that the economic future of remote Indigenous people lies in the mainstream. Industrial mining is regarded as the prime site for Indigenous employment and business engagement in part because there are few other opportunities, in part because Indigenous land owners have some leverage in this production realm, and late capitalist logic dictates it must be exercised for individual and community gain. Drawing on David Graeber’s distinction in Debt: The First 5,000 Years between market (or commercial) and human economies, in this seminar I explore some of the reasons for low Indigenous participation in mining and consider an alternate form of hybrid economy that might deliver sustainable livelihood outcomes.

Jon Altman is professor in economic anthropology at the Australian National University.  In 2009 he co-edited Culture, Power, Economy: Indigenous Australians and Mining (available in toto and gratis: Download here). His chapter ‘Indigenous rights, mining corporations and the Australian state’ is included in The Politics of Resource Extraction: Indigenous Peoples, Multinational Corporations and the State edited by Suzana Sawyer and Terence Gomes (Palgraves Macmillan 2012).

Location: The Refectory, Quadrangle A14

Contact: Assoc Prof Tess Lea
Phone: 61 2 9351 6777

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