The University of Western Australia

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Robert Tonkinson

Professor Robert Tonkinson

Senior Honorary Research Fellow
Adjunct and Honorary Staff and Visitors (Social Sciences)

Contact details
Adjunct and Honorary Staff and Visitors (Social Sciences)
The University of Western Australia (M257)
35 Stirling Highway
+61 8 6488 2858
MA W.Aust., PhD Br.Col., FASSA
Key research
Teaching of Traditions in Aboriginal Australia; Contemporary Issues in Aboriginal Australia; Religion; Anthropology 101 & 102; Honours Thesis Writing Seminar; Research interests include Indigenous Australia (especially the politics of tradition; indigenous religion; identity; native title), Melanesia (especially Vanuatu; religion and social and political change; migration; identity; politics of tradition); the anthropology of colonialism and the impact of Christianity; social organisation.
1993 Understanding ‘Tradition’ - Ten Years On. Anthropological Forum 6(4):597-606.

1994 Melanesia: Culture, Technology and ‘Tradition’ before and after Western Impacts. In R.A. Stephenson (ed), Traditional Technological Structures and Cultures of the Pacific. Micronesian Area Research Centre, University of Guam. Pp. 32-66.

1996 The Dynamics of Aboriginal Identity in Remote Australia. Anthropological Notebooks 11(1):27-42. (Special Issue: Multiple Identities, ed. B. Telban)

1997 Anthropology and Aboriginal Tradition: The Hindmarsh Island Bridge Affair and the Politics of Interpretation. Oceania 68(1):1-26.

1998 National Identity: Australia after Mabo. In J. Wassmann (ed) Pacific Answers to Western Hegemony. Berg, Oxford. (Explorations in Anthropology series). Pp.287-310.

1999 The pragmatics and politics of Aboriginal tradition and identity in Australia. Journal de la Societe des Oceanistes 109(2): 133-147. A. Babadzan (ed) Les Politiques de la tradition : identites nationales et identites culturelles dans le Pacifique.

2000 Gender role transformation among Australian Aborigines. In P. P. Schweitzer, M. Biesele, & R. K. Hitchcock (eds) Hunters and Gatherers in the Modern World: Conflict, Resistance, and Self-Determination. Berghahn, New York. Pp.343-360.

2000 Through a cultural lens: 'the humane' and the absolutist-relativist dilemma. In J. McCalman (ed) Humane Societies. Australian Academy of the Humanities, Canberra. Pp. 1-13.

2000 An anthropologist as travel writer. In P.R. Devita (ed) Stumbling Towards Truth: Anthropologists at Work. Waveland, Prospect Heights. Pp. 1-13

2001 Encountering the Other: millenarianism and the permeability of indigenous domains: a Melanesian-Australian comparison. Paideuma 47.
Future research
Recently, after more than 30 years of working in two contrasting regions, Aboriginal Australia and insular Melanesia, I am attempting to engage in direct comparisons of aspects common to both field areas, most particularly under the general rubric of social change, but more specifically in the uses and politics of tradition in relation to political action and issues of personal and group identity. Three recent comparative papers concern indigenous reactions to the invasion of Europeans, in historical and anthropological perspective; dreams and dream experiences and their status and functioning in the two cultures; and the politics of tradition in western Oceania and Aboriginal Australia. I continue to work in both academic and applied areas of anthropological research on Aboriginal Australia, including land claim research, and maintain an on-going focus on the dynamics of sorcery belief and practice in Southeast Ambrym.
Useful links
* Robert Tonkinson is also editor of the journal Anthropological Forum
Research profile
Research profile and publications

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Last updated:
Monday, 1 October, 2012 4:15 PM