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'Totally Wild'? Colonising discourses, indigenous knowledges and managing wildlife

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This paper offers a critique of politically dominant Eurocentric notions of culture and nature in Australia. In particular, it interrogates Eurocentric concepts of animals, wildlife and management, and seeks to unsettle these concepts by considering some of the diverse ways in which indigenous people in Australia know country, animals and wilderness. Using the metaphor of Eurocentric ontology in a hall of mirrors, the paper argues that Eurocentric claims of universalism for naturalised discourses that assume the adequacy of a nature–culture binary form a very fragile circular argument. Self-justifying the imposition and assertion of Eurocentric concepts and practices is a mechanistic reflection of the particular terms of reference set by Eurocentric knowledges and a denial of multiple ways of knowing. The dangers this presents are illustrated by examining how concepts and practices underlying wildlife management have self-justified (continuing) colonising processes in Australia. Finally, the paper attempts to open up spaces that address these dangers. Situated engagement is introduced as an approach which could shatter the hall of mirrors—by clearly embodying and emplacing all thought and action, universalised boundaries can be recognised and breached and new possibilities imagined and realised.
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Keywords: INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGES; NATURE; POSTCOLONIALISM; SITUATED ENGAGEMENT; WILDERNESS; WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-07-01

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