Place, Indigeneity, and Identity in Australia's Gulf Country

David Trigger, Richard J. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Land and location are central to the identities of those known colloquially as Blackfellas and Whitefellas in the Gulf region of northern Australia. Entwined spiritual and material features of “country” are significant in the ways indigenous people experience locations, encompassing intimate connections of persons in place for those with the greatest knowledge of classical cultural traditions. In contrast, for long-term residents descended from settlers, senses of emplaced identity derive from work experiences, confidence in the economic productivity of the land, and an appreciation of its “natural” and aesthetic qualities. However, these distinct relationships with place partially overlap through a shared history of working in the cattle industry. Our analysis of this complex social field addresses the intercultural relations that inform assumptions about belonging and identity following British colonization some 150 years ago. The challenge is to apprehend parallel yet highly differentiated understandings of the same landscape amid contestation over inherited indigenous connections with the land and the counterpoint of Whitefellas’ established residence over multiple generations and attachment to property. Here we argue for the study of identity and place connections in postsettler societies to eschew any exclusive focus on either indigenous or settler histories and ontologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)824-837
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Anthropologist
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


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