Institutt for sosialantropologi

Primitivism Prevails - The Cultural Problematization of Aboriginality


By Vegard Gilja

Supervisor: Professor Andrew Lattas

Contemporary Darwin is characterised by racial, that is socially constructed notions of culture, structures that are partly produced by stereotypes through misperceptions on the contents of cultural capital.

In this thesis, performance is analysed so as to reveal a lacking working consensus between different ethnic groups. Busking performance participates in racial stereotypes that are supported by government approved discourses on what is expected of Aborigines in order to promote the tourist industry. It thus participates in the cultural problematization of what constitutes Aboriginality. The contents of cultural capital are consciously used by performers in order to articulate their own sense of Aboriginal identity. Public misperceptions of Aboriginality is made explicit in analysing repertoires, interactions with the audience and confrontations with each other and the police. The social order of cultural expectations is informed by a dichotomy, authentic versus inauthentic and this comes to inform contemporary racial stereotypes. The themes of cultural problematization is widened with the study of houseless Aborigines and discourses related to public drinking. Houselessness, public drinking and begging all imply resistance, partly because rituals among the wider population in Darwin imply a confirmation of non-indigenous hegemony. Public drinking contributes to discourses of social disorder and cultural pathology, and are articulated by members of the the public and government officials to promote increased surveillance and policing. The themes of cultural expectations thus involve disproportionate amounts of symbolic violence resulting in bio-power. Contemporary and future reconciliation needs to acknowledge the issues surrounding lack of consensus on what Aboriginality, or the contents of cultural capital of Aborigines, consists of.