Aboriginal Complexity

This is an encouraging start to an ethnography I started reading today:

The culture of the Mardu, like all Aboriginal Australian cultures in some degree, is characterized by an extremely simple technology and material culture and an equally outstandingly complex religious and cosmological system. This fact immediately challenges everyday assumptions about the nature of civilization and its complexities. It is a beginning lesson in anthropology. It should change the reader’s conception about the nature of complexities in his or her own society and challenge assumptions about the nature of human life, human thinking, and “progress.”

Of particular interest to students of anthropology will be the analysis of how rituals and beliefs change in a seemingly unchanging society. Anthropological as well as lay conceptions concerning Aboriginal societies in Australia have tended toward the notion of the static, timeless culture. In contrast, the Mardu, and probably most other aboriginal cultures, welcomed change. There is no notion of progress in aboriginal cultures, but there is always change.

The Mardu Aborigines: Living the Dream in Australia’s Desert (Tonkinson 1991)


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