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AIS2090 - Hearing the Country: Studies in Indigenous Australian Ethnoecology

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: Dr. John Bradley


Clayton Second semester 2007 (Day)


Australia is the site of a remarkable diversity of systems of knowledge. Indigenous knowledge systems and systems based on western scientific tradition have often been seen as the most distant poles on a continuum that ranges from myth to science. Continuing research in Australia shows that Indigenous ecological knowledge on this continent is detailed, localised and grounded in empirical observations. In addition, Indigenous knowledge is embedded within a system of ethics that is oriented toward long-term productivity. It is usual to contrast Indigenous knowledge with non-Indigenous systems of knowledge and care in order to show their divergence or even, in many instances, their oppositions.


The objectives of this subject are to explore in depth the way in which people describe their relationship with country. It seeks to explore the way in which environmental and biological knowledge is encoded. It's major goal is to study ecological and scientific systems within the context of a culture. The subject aims to explore how language, history. "tradition", material culture, spirituality, kinship, emotion and politics are all ways in which people negotiate a relationship with the environment. The course will study the anthropological discourse with landscape and how knowledge about landscapes are encoded. This will involve issues such as kinship and ceremony, language and understanding ethnobiological zoological / botanical taxonomy in comparison to western Linnaean zoological and botanical taxonomy. The course will use actual case studies and will involve manipulating original material collected by the lecturer and other researchers. The course will also address the academic debates in relation to ethnoecology from the school of thought which places cognition at the forefront of this discipline to those that believe other issues such as culture, time and concepts such as "tradition" and religion also influence people and their relationship to the environment.


Minor written assignment (1500 words) : 20%
Reflexive article portfolio (4x500 words) : 25%
Major research paper (2000) : 30%
Reflexive journal (Student determined) : 25%
Third year students will be expected to relate their reflexive journal entries to a tight engagement with the literature covered within the unit.

Contact hours

1 two hour lecture per week