Half-caste, out-caste: An ethnographic analysis of the processes underlying adaptation among Aboriginal people in Rural Town, South-West Queensland

Eckermann, Anne-Katrin (1977). Half-caste, out-caste: An ethnographic analysis of the processes underlying adaptation among Aboriginal people in Rural Town, South-West Queensland PhD Thesis, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland.

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Author Eckermann, Anne-Katrin
Thesis Title Half-caste, out-caste: An ethnographic analysis of the processes underlying adaptation among Aboriginal people in Rural Town, South-West Queensland
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Science
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1977
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Supervisor -
Total pages 441
Language eng
Subjects 160803 Race and Ethnic Relations
379902 Aboriginal Studies
Formatted abstract
This thesis examines the adequacy of the assimilation/culture - contact/culture – continuum framework on which much research into urban/ rural Aboriginal groups has been based. Chapters I and II outline the concepts underlying this approach and propose that a theoretical orientation amalgamating the principles of cultural ecology, cognitive and psychiatric anthropology within a framework of distal and proximal environmental, personal and behavioural attributes would prove a more fruitful and comprehensive theoretical orientation.

Inherent in such an approach is the concept of adaptation. Delineation of the processes of adaptation in terms of such a framework is based on qualitative rather than quantitative methods of data collection. Consequently Chapter III carefully examines the strengths and weaknesses of participant observation as well as the whole qualitative method. It indicates that, although this method of data collection has many strengths, particularly in relation to cognitive and psychiatric anthropology, it would be misleading to attempt to evaluate it according to purely scientific principles.

Chapter IV begins evaluation of ethnographic data about Aboriginal people in Rural Town in terms of the proposed adaptive theoretical framework by examining the history of settlement, the nature and changes of land use, the development of European society, the conflict between European and Aboriginal groups in the area and the latter's resultant decimation and subjugation.

Chapter V delineates the present Aboriginal population in Rural Town, their interrelationships, permanency of residence, patterns of movement and the housing situation. Results indicate that the present organization within the Aboriginal minority is related to its economic situation, the history of contact and settlement in the region and present relationships with the dominant European majority. This theme is elaborated in Chapters VI and VII which present data on interactions between Europeans and Aborigines as well as in-group activity among the dark people in Rural Town. Evidence again suggests that present patterns result from historical developments as well as European perceptions of Aborigines which have helped to shape Aboriginal perceptions of themselves as second-class people.

Thus, in terms of Myrdal's (1965) concept of cumulative causation, data collected in Rural Town indicate that the Aboriginal community is operating within a "vicious circle" of prejudice, segregation and discrimination involving cultural exclusion and social disintegration.

Chapters VIII and IX, concerning societal pressures on the Aboriginal community, such as social class and economic position, examine the way in which these have shaped the Aboriginal household, relationships within the household, concepts underlying socialization, education and employment patterns. Again, data suggest that the principles and processes underlying these patterns arise out of Myrdal's second "vicious circle" determined by poverty, low social status, poor housing and lack of employment possibilities.

The cumulative effects of these two "vicious circles" have resulted in tensions and pressures with which many Aboriginal people of Rural Town cannot cope. The factors underlying this inability to cope or adapt successfully are not related to any misunderstanding of European values or to existence in a culture-contact / culture-vacuum situation. Rather, they are a product of chronic poverty and Aboriginal people's frustrations in trying to establish their worth and equality in a white society from which they have been excluded since first European settlement in South West Queensland.

Keyword Aboriginal Australians -- Queensland, Southwestern
Assimilation (Sociology)
Additional Notes Please note that the original thesis contains some pages with incomplete text ------- The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

Document type: Thesis
Collections: Queensland Past Online (QPO)
UQ Theses (RHD) - Open Access
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Created: Thu, 11 Mar 2010, 14:47:09 EST by Ms Natalie Hull on behalf of Social Sciences and Humanities Library Service