Thomas's Rant

Story, myth, writings

“Dark Emu” by Bruce Pascoe

with 2 comments


I strongly recommend this slim little book – the author reveals overlooked passages from the first European settlers all around Australia, who, despite strong negative bias, can’t help remarking on sophisticated and subtle aboriginal agriculture, housing, villages, food storage practices, land management, and complex social customs even as they then dismiss them as the work of “ignorant savages” and seize their mysteriously well-maintained pastures for destruction under the harsh trampling hooves of introduced sheep and cow species. The revelation for me is that Aboriginal history is really an urgent study of sustainable Australian agrarian economics today. (Reading level is just one step down from easy due to some overuse of passive forms and nominalisations (and lack of humour) – but this is splitting hairs really.)

Written by tomtomrant

1 September 2016 at 8:33 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Bruce’s book is mostly nonsense. The primary sources he uses do not support his arguments. There is some mention of ‘semi-permanent’ dwellings, because of course Aboriginal people visited the same places according to the seasons and the availability of resources. Here is one of his primary sources which mention the semi-permanent dwellings, but also it also mentions the constant travelling nomadic lifestyle in many parts.

    Jiim McKay

    16 June 2018 at 10:45 am

    • This is true. However, we should also consider complicity, bias, and ignorance on the part of the authors of historical sources as well as their intended audience when writing. Furthermore, the entire book has quite a number of primary source quotations not all of which can be nonsense. We need to interpret history with all available information, and not just the primary sources we happen to possess or can understand. There are often huge gaps in evidence which must be considered. To base the interpretation of an entire culture on the writing of frequently complicit outsiders to that culture just because these are the primary sources which we can access would present a one-sided, narrow view of history.


      16 June 2018 at 11:08 am

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