Intelligent parasitism: A.P. Elkin and the rhetoric of assimilation

McGregor, Russell (1996) Intelligent parasitism: A.P. Elkin and the rhetoric of assimilation. Journal of Australian Studies, 20 (50-51). pp. 118-130.

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Abstract

[Extract] By 1951 A.P. Elkin, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Sydney, had acquired an international academic reputation, as well as being the dommant figure within his discipline in Australia. In that year he published 'Reaction and Interaction: A Food Gathering People and European Settlement in Australia', in which he set out the phases through which the relations between Aborigines and Europeans had supposedly passed since first colonisation of this country. 1 It was the most comprehensive study of what Elkin termed 'culture contact' that he had yet published, and remained probably the most detailed and best-known of his many articles on this topic. According to his biographer, Tigger Wise, Elkin chose American Anthropologist for the publication ofthis article because he felt that this prestigious journal 'would give it the most exposure', and he 'fiercely' defended his words against the editorial intervention of Melville Herskovits.2 Certainly, Elkin regarded this article as important. Unlike many of his other published works, 'Reaction and Interaction' was drafted and revised many times, apparently over a period of some years, before finally appearing in print.3 Its argument, the phases of contact and the terminology used to describe it, were recycled again and again in the numerous lectures, addresses and articles which Elkin gave and published in the 1950s and 1960s. Of the terms employed in 'Reaction and Interaction', the most memorable - and subsequently the most frequently repeated - was 'intelligent parasitism', coined by Elkin to describe the employment situation on northern Australian pastoral stations where Aborigines exerted a minimum of effort in exchange for bare subsistence.

Item ID: 11560
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: assimilation; Elkin, A.P.; anthropology; aboriginal; Australian aborigines
ISSN: 1835-6419
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2010 00:24
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History @ 80%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210303 Australian History (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History) @ 20%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 100%
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