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Bushwalking in Kakadu: a study of cultural borderlands

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Abstract:

This paper examines the relationship between the contested domains of Aboriginal traditional owners and non-Aboriginal Park users, specifically bushwalkers, in Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia. It argues that Kakadu remains a cultural borderland where a negotiated relationship between local Aboriginal traditional owners and non-Aboriginal Park users is struggling to emerge. It finds that the rhetoric of Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal co-existence, which pervades the Park, is infused by the legacy of a colonial settler state, which has presumed access to territory, marginalized Indigenous people and obviated their social and cultural landscape in favour of an expansionist aesthetic of wilderness preservation and appreciation. This paper finds that the activities of bushwalkers and the concerns that these activities generate in the local Aboriginal domain produce a novel space where place is contested and transformed, a space of negotiation and resistance where people's cherished values both compete with and influence one another.

Keywords: Aborigines; bushwalking; commodity fetishism; national parks; tourism; wilderness

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1464936042000181344

Affiliations: School of Anthropology, Geography and Environmental Studies The University of Melbourne Victoria 3010 Australia

Publication date: 2004-03-01

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