Doomadgee : a study of power relations and social action in a north Australian Aboriginal settlement

Trigger, David S. (1985). Doomadgee : a study of power relations and social action in a north Australian Aboriginal settlement PhD Thesis, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland.

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Author Trigger, David S.
Thesis Title Doomadgee : a study of power relations and social action in a north Australian Aboriginal settlement
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Science
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1985
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor -
Total pages 383
Language eng
Subjects 169902 Studies of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Society
379902 Aboriginal Studies
Formatted abstract This thesis presents an ethnographic description and analysis of a broad range of social life at a north Australian Aboriginal settlement, within a theoretical framework that stresses power relations. Specific concepts including class, status, social closure, domination, authority and legitimacy are drawn predominantly from Weberian sociology to achieve idiographic explanation of social action. While primarily seeking to account for a large body of empirical data, a broader aim of the study has been to articulate substantive ethnographic research on Aborigines and race-relations, within the general social science theoretical concern with power relations.

Part A of the thesis consists of the Introduction (Chapter 1) and a discussion of relevant theoretical concepts (Chapter 2).

Part B concerns social life deriving predominantly from Aboriginal tradition. It deals with Aborigines' individual and collective affiliation to Aboriginal languages (Chapter 3) and "country" (Chapter 4) , and with their social relations on the basis of kinship (Chapter 5). These features of Aboriginal social life are presented as critical aspects of the social identity of people, and as the foci for competitive status relations; the extent to which Aboriginal tradition thereby generates stratification and inequality in settlement social life is considered. However, the further critical conclusion in Part E is that Aboriginal affiliation to language, country and kin does not generate corporate groups, and the study thus indicates the necessity to keep the concepts of "status" and "status group" analytically separate.

Part C stresses the importance of the issue of legitimacy in the analysis of power relations. Chapters 6 to 9 are essentially concerned with understanding Aboriginal compliance within the pattern of White Australian domination. Chapter 6 presents extensive historical material, in examining the domination of Aboriginal society via economic power, the use of physical force by the state, and the development of authority relations. Chapter 7 uses the notion of social closure to develop the concept of separate Aboriginal and White domains, operating such that Aborigines maintain substantial autonomy. Chapter 8 considers the operation of entrenched authority relations in settlement administrative processes, while Chapter 9 focuses on Christianity as a legitimating ideology in the process of Aborigines accepting the authority of local White missionary staff. Throughout Part C, the thesis stresses the necessity to analytically recognise coercion in the social processes generating Aboriginal compliance, as well as the "voluntarism" which is strongly stressed within the classic Weberian perspective. In conclusion (Part D, Chapter 10), it is thus argued that a flexible interplay between the concepts of coercion and voluntarism has been necessary in the study of compliance, and that these two notions should be understood as analytically separable components of the concept of legitimacy. It is further argued more generally in the conclusion, that a theoretical framework emphasising power relations has enabled the most adequate holistic understanding and explanation of the social life with which the study is concerned.
Keyword Aboriginal Australians -- Queensland -- Doomadgee -- Social conditions
Aboriginal Australians -- Missions -- Queensland -- Doomadgee
Additional Notes The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

 
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