Inclusion-Exclusion: Recasting the Issue of Boundaries for the Western Desert

Abstract : Australian Aboriginal Western Desert society has in the past caused considerable problems to anthropology. Solving these has shown that boundedness, closure and exclusion are inappropriate concepts and processes to describe this area, where openness, diversification of relationships and inclusion are dominant. However, new problems emerge: if there is no boundedness, what is to be a person of the Western Desert and where does it start or end? The paper suggest two approaches developing from two general observations. First, walytja, the concept that has vaguely been translated as 'family' and which is the idiosyncratic expression of boundedness, is in fact undefinable: it has no contours. It simply stands for 'mutuality of being'. Second, the continuous tension between inclusion and exclusion, and between openness and boundedness, may signify the notion of society in general, and of Western Desert identity in particular. The first approach tends to reflect emic categories in etic typologies. Here, the paper discusses what are considered the three pillars of social formations as summarized in the concepts of space or place, memory and modes of recruitment. Place is location, memory is legitimization and recruitment is selection. The second approach is grounded in actor-network theory. Two ethnographic examples, one on increase rituals, the other on vehicles, illustrate the complementarity of the two approaches and suggest that walytja (family) is used by Aboriginal people to reflect an actual or potential path of extension and inclusion and works itself as an actor conveying a transforming value system.
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Laurent Dousset. Inclusion-Exclusion: Recasting the Issue of Boundaries for the Western Desert. Anthropological Forum: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Comparative Sociology, Taylor & Francis (Routledge), 2013, 23 (4), pp.342-354. ⟨halshs-00903265⟩

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