Negotiating belonging: Plants, people, and indigeneity in northern Australia

Richard J. Martin, David Trigger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Web of Science)


This article focuses on human-plant relations, drawing on ethnographic research from northern Australia's Gulf Country to address the concept of indigeneity. Just as the identities of 'Indigenous' and 'non-Indigenous' people in this region are contextual and at times contested according to the vernacular categories of 'Blackfellas', 'Whitefellas', and 'Yellafellas', so too the issue of what 'belongs' in the natural world is negotiated through ambiguities about whether species are useful, productive, and aesthetically pleasing to humans, as well as local understandings about how plants and animals came to be located in the Gulf region. At the same time, plants' distinctive characteristics as plants shape their relations with humans in ways which affect their categorization as 'native' and 'alien' or 'introduced'. Focusing our analysis on three specific trees, we argue that attention to the 'plantiness' of flora contributes significantly to debates about indigeneity in society and nature. At the same time, our focus on human-plant relations contributes important context and nuance to current debates about human and other-than-human relations in a more-than-human world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-295
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2015
Externally publishedYes


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