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Is a village a village if no one lives there? Negotiated histories on Mabuyag in the Western Torres Strait

CollectionsANU Press (1965- Present)
Title: Is a village a village if no one lives there? Negotiated histories on Mabuyag in the Western Torres Strait
Author(s): Wright, Duncan
Date published: 2011
Publisher: ANU ePress
Series/Report no.: Terra Australis ; 35
Partnership (or community) archaeology has become increasingly prominent in the Australia/ Pacific region (see Marshall 2002 and McNiven and Russell 2005). A community-led approach acknowledges the importance of indigenous control of the cultural-heritage process. This is designed to enable indigenous communities to ‘maintain or establish community pride, cohesion and identity’, as well as creating a ‘more nuanced and textured view of the past’ (Smith 1999; Nicholas 2000; McNiven and Russell 2005:244; Smith and Wobst 2005). Divergent ‘symbolic and metaphoric strategies’ in oral history and archaeology are likely to result in the creation of different histories (McNiven and Russell 2005:248). This may be further influenced by methodological constraints (e.g. the validity, accuracy and representativeness of oral/archaeological histories) or the reluctance of communities to divulge secrets about their sites and practices (Sand 2000:68; McNiven and Russell 2005:48). When archaeological and ethnographic results do not correspond it is important to avoid both selective criticism of oral histories and censoring of instances where archaeology conflicts with oral accounts (Allen 1983:8; Echo-Hawk 1997; McNiven and Russell 2005:256). Partnership archaeology recognises that the cultural-heritage process requires ongoing negotiation between indigenous and archaeological communities, and in some cases the alteration of existing indigenous and/or non-indigenous cosmologies and methodologies (Nicholas 2000; McNiven and Russell 2005:248; Smith and Wobst 2005). In 2001, a community project was initiated in the western Torres Strait to track ‘archaeological signatures of ethnographically documented cultural practices back from a recent to a more distant past’ (David and McNiven 2004:203). As well as providing significant information on key points of cultural change, it has also provided a case study about community-based archaeology and the methods used to explore prehistoric sites and cultural material (e.g. McNiven and Feldman 2003; David et al. 2004; McNiven et al. 2009). This paper stems from doctoral research conducted during the Western Torres Strait cultural history project. It negotiates the competing histories for two ethnographically prominent ‘villages’, Wagadagam and Maidh, on Mabuyag in the central western Torres Strait.
ISBN: 978-1-92186-248-9


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