ATS3280 - The ethnographic endeavour: Capturing the Indigenous past to understand the Indigenous present - 2018

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit

Monash Indigenous Studies Centre

Chief examiner(s)

Dr Liam Brady


Dr Liam Brady

Unit guides



  • First semester 2018 (On-campus)


Twelve credit points of second-year Arts units.




This is a capstone unit that will give students the opportunity to explore ethnographic texts which represent Indigenous Australians and other Indigenous peoples around the world. Students will come to understand and examine key works of early historical, anthropological and ethnographic texts that represent Indigenous people and culture in order to learn more about the historical portrayal of people and communities. Through these texts students will be exposed to traditions of research in three main discipline areas: anthropology, archaeology and history, and consider the relationship between academic disciplines and colonialism.

Indigenous peoples worldwide are increasingly looking to past historical, anthropological, and ethnographic descriptions of their ancestors' past lifeways in an effort to learn more about matters concerning kinship and language (among other things). Instead of seeing these texts of little value due to the nature of their writing and colonial stances, students will consider why and how these texts are still of value to contemporary Indigenous peoples while also examining the moral and ethical dilemmas posed through their contemporary use.


Upon successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  1. identify and discuss the ethnographic endeavours undertaken by early anthropologists who worked throughout mainland Australia, the Torres Strait Islands, and other select locations around the world;
  2. examine key cross-cultural and intercultural issues through a rigorous analysis of ethnographic texts;
  3. recognise the theoretical implications embedded in ethnographic texts and explain the moral and ethical dilemmas that might be posed through the contemporary use of such texts;
  4. develop innovative solutions to the complex understandings that the selected texts can engender;
  5. apply understandings of these texts to other ethnographic texts from other parts of the world, and place them within both historical and theoretical periods;
  6. approach ethnographic texts in an ethical and moral manner in order to recognise the empathic understandings of Indigenous responses to such texts.


Within semester assessment: 100%

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. A unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study