Anthropology in Australian Indigenous Legal Cases: What I've Learned from the Law and What Lawyers Have Learned from Me

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Abstract

Reflecting on several decades of my applied research, expert witness roles and a forensic methodology, this article addresses the application of anthropological studies in Australian legal cases concerned with various aspects of Indigenous customary law. In the context of traditional land claims, cultural heritage assessments and native title, both the achievements and challenges for anthropological inquiries are canvassed. Against arguments from some academics that applied work is intellectually inferior and politically compromised, the article reports my experiences in an arena of complex and enriching social science inquiry. The article engages with Indigenous land aspirations in a settler society while considering the implications of cultural change and adaptation, strategies of recuperation of customary knowledge, and the robustness required for successful anthropological studies of this kind.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-175
Number of pages14
JournalAnthropological Forum
Volume33
Issue number3
Early online date2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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