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Anthropology Pure and Profane: The Politics of Applied Research in Aboriginal Australia

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Is there a view that academic anthropology operates or belongs in a ‘sacred’ space that is distinguishable from applied research occupying a less pure, intellectually inferior and more morally profane domain? Certainly, in my experience of some thirty plus years of work in Australian Aboriginal studies, such a distinction has at times been both promoted and contested vigorously. I outline my reading of the recent debate focusing particularly on writings from those concerned about the moral and political standing of applied anthropology. I also address the proposition that applied work is intellectually inadequate, particularly in being incapable of analysis of cultural change. Prompted by the critiques of applied anthropology, I reflect upon my own research career's blending of both academic and applied work. The paper addresses some case material enabling presentation of my perspective on the positive contribution of engagement beyond the academy in Australian Aboriginal anthropology.
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Keywords: Applied Anthropology; Australia; Indigenous; Law; Native Title

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2011

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