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Labor’s Lot

The Power, History, and Culture of Aboriginal Action

How does an Aboriginal community see itself, its work, and its place on the land? Elizabeth Povinelli goes to the Belyuen community of northern Australia to show how it draws from deep connections between labor, language, and the landscape. Her findings challenge Western notions of "productive labor" and longstanding ideas about the role of culture in subsistence economies.

In Labor’s Lot, Povinelli shows how everyday activities shape Aboriginal identity and provide cultural meaning. She focuses on the Belyuen women’s interactions with the countryside and on Belyuen conflicts with the Australian government over control of local land. Her analysis raises serious questions about the validity of Western theories about labor and culture and their impact on Aboriginal society.

Povinelli’s focus on women’s activities provides an important counterpoint to recent works centering on male roles in hunter-gatherer societies. Her unique "cultural economy" approach overcomes the dichotomy between the two standard approaches to these studies. Labor’s Lot will engage anyone interested in indigenous peoples or in the relationship between culture and economy in contemporary social practice.

339 pages | 8 tables, 5 maps | 6 x 9 | © 1994

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Table of Contents

List of Maps and Tables
Part One - Setting Up Labor-Action: Legitimate Law, Identity, History
1. Legal Entanglements
Aboriginal Action and Identity
2. Positioning Aborigines
Precolonial, Colonial and Postcolonial Aboriginal Pasts
Part Two - Assessing Labor-Action: Dreaming, Development, Knowledge/Power
3. Labor’s Lot
The Construction of Human Bodies and the Countryside
4. "Today We Struggle"
Contemporary Hunting, Fishing, and Collecting and the Market
5. "Being There"
Dreaming and Development as Political Frames for Land Use
6. The Assessment of Cultural Identity and Political-Economic Practice
A Conclusion
Works Cited

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