A World of Relationships: Itineraries, Dreams, and Events in the Australian Western Desert
Published: April 2005© 2004
220 Pages, 6.03 x 9.01 x 0.91 in
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A World of Relationships is an ethnographical account and anthropological study of the cultural use and social potential of dreams among Aboriginal groups of the Australian Western Desert. The outcome of fieldwork conducted in the area in the 1980s and 90s, it was originally published in French as Les jardins du nomade: Cosmologie, territoire et personne dans le désert occidental australien.
In her study, Sylvie Poirier explores the contemporary Aboriginal system of knowledge and law through an analysis of the relationships between the ancestral order, the 'sentient' land, and human agencies. At the ethnographical and analytical levels, particular attention is given to a range of local narratives and stories, and to the cultural construction of individual experiences. Poirier also investigates the cultural system of dreams and dreaming, and the process of their socialization, analysing their ideological, semantic, pragmatic, and experiential dimensions. Through the synthesis of a complex and diverse range of theoretical and empirical materials, A World of Relationships offers new insights into Australian Aboriginal sociality, historicity, and dynamics of cultural change and ritual innovation.
1 A Place like Balgo: A Story of Accommodation, Resistance, and Misunderstandings
2 Ancestrality, Sentient Places, and Social Spaces
3 Sociality, Mobility, and Composite Identity
4 Ways of Being, Relating, and Knowing
5 The Social Setting of Dreams and Dreaming
6 Ritual Vitality and Mobility
Conclusion: Ancestrality, Imaginary, and Historicity
'A World of Relationships is a work of considerable empirical and analytic originality that offers an important study of the socio-cultural use and impact of dreams in the daily life of sedentarized Aboriginal people in a small village in Central Australia. The ability to link empirical work to theory is a refreshing stand in anthropology and I wish there were more monographs like Poirier's.'Françoise Dussart, Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut
'The strength of this splendid, invaluable book is that it avoids post-modernist polemics concerning social identity and political resistance by grounding these important issues not in jargon but on solid and detailed fieldwork observations. Poirier is obviously an excellent field anthropologist who knows there is little to be gained from polemics. A World of Relationships is extremely well-argued, logical, exciting to read, exceptionally well-written, and, needless to say, an important contribution on ethnographic and theoretical levels.'Guy Lanoue, Département d'anthropologie, Université de Montréal