The political and economic basis of Kuku-Yalanji social history

Anderson, Jon Christopher (1985). The political and economic basis of Kuku-Yalanji social history PhD Thesis, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland.

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Author Anderson, Jon Christopher
Thesis Title The political and economic basis of Kuku-Yalanji social history
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Science
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1985
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Bruce Rigsby
Total pages 480
Language eng
Subjects 210301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History
16 Studies in Human Society
Formatted abstract This thesis is a study of change in the political economy of an Australian Aboriginal population on eastern Cape York Peninsula, Queensland over the period 1880-1980. The study focuses on the primary locus of change, the relationship between the Aboriginal social formation in the area in 1880 and the various interventions of expanding European capitalism from that time on. To characterize this relationship I use the notion of articulation. I outline the nature of the Aboriginal system prior to its articulation with the capitalist mode of production and I identify it as having had two critical elements. Firstly, there were the macro-domestic groups made up of a number of households and associated with particular camps. These were the fundamental political and economic units of the Aboriginal social formation. Secondly, there was the role played by particular individuals in defining and controlling the domestic groups and their reproduction. The conflict between ideology, on the one hand, and the constraints of the forces of production and political competition between these latter individuals, on the other, produced an internal contradiction which was a major dynamic in the pre-contact Aboriginal social formation in this area. It was also a major factor in articulation patterns post-1880. Before examining these patterns, I describe the appearance and operation of the capitalist mode of production in north Queensland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Articulation between this system and the Aboriginal one is viewed as a series of phases or periods each characterised by different features, rather than as continuous linear change over time. I describe two major periods, one of conservation and one of subordination. These periods are described by means of extended case studies of particular Aboriginal camps and domestic groups in southeast Cape York Peninsula. The first period was one in which, partly due to the internal workings of the Aboriginal system and partly due to the level of development and nature of the capitalist mode of production in the area, the former was conserved and aspects of its relations of production were actually reinforced. During the second period, the Aboriginal mode became subordinate to the European system as the reproduction of the domestic groups in the former was dependent on their relationship with the latter. This came about partly through state intervention. The thesis also adumbrates the beginnings of a possible third period of articulation. This period is not fully described as it only begins as the present study ends. It is characterised by the dissolution of the Aboriginal social formation through the breakdown of most of the domestic groups and the altered relations of production. Apart from demonstrating the beginnings of the dissolution period, the present (the late 1970s) in southeast Cape York Peninsula is shown to be the result not only of the pre-contact Aboriginal system and its dynamics, but also of the social formation of the recent past with its complex articulation patterns and periods of conservation and subordination. The thesis argues for the utility of social analysis in which change is regarded as a central concern and a normal condition, not a peripheral or atypical state for human systems. The thesis also argues for methods of understanding change which combine structure with the dynamics of process and which attempt to explain the basis of structural change as well as continuity.
Keyword Aboriginal Australians -- Queensland -- Cape York Peninsula
Kuku-Yalanji (Australian people) -- Social conditions
Kuku-Yalanji (Australian people) -- Economic conditions
Additional Notes The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

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