See/download the final papers at Taylor & Francis Online (subscription required)
See/download the pre-publication open access versions below.


  • Nicholas Smith: Murtuka Yirraru: Automobility in Pilbara Song-Poems
  • Victoria Burbank, Kate Senior & Sue McMullen: Precocious Pregnancy, Sexual Conflict, and Early Childbearing in Remote Aboriginal Australia
  • Robert K. Hitchcock: Authenticity, Identity, and Humanity: The Hai‖om San and the State of Namibia
  • Maria Sapignoli: Dispossession in the Age of Humanity: Human Rights, Citizenship, and Indigeneity in the Central Kalahari


Nicholas Smith

Anthropology & Sociology
La Trobe University
Bundoora, Victoria, Australia

Murtuka Yirraru: Automobility in Pilbara Song-Poems

pages 221-242

Arguably one of the most enduring icons of modernity is the automobile. The innumerable songs about motor vehicles are testimony to this status. This article examines Pilbara Aboriginal (marrngu) songs about the murtuka (motorcar). Focusing on a particular style of song known as yirraru to Ngarla people of the De Grey River area in Western Australia, I explore a range of questions concerning the impact of automobility on marrngu lifeworlds. Is the ‘freedom of the road’ a value historically shared by marrngu and walypala? Or is the marrngu passion for automobility evinced in these yirraru simply an adaptation of precolonial values, beliefs, and behaviours associated with mobility? This is not an ethnomusicology article; I treat yirraru as narratives, narratives that convey something about the relational in marrngu modes of orientation and engagement with the motor vehicle. Using archival and ethnographic data, I argue that murtuka song-poems show that marrngu regarded motor vehicles as instrumental in their own efforts for autonomy in the decades in which these yirraru originated (1920–1960s). Ultimately I consider what the enthusiastic embrace of the murtuka by marrngu might say about the nature of sociocultural difference, similarity, and marrngu and walypala boundedness in the Pilbara.


Victoria Burbank, Kate Senior & Sue McMullen

Victoria Burbank
School of Social Science
University of Western Australia
Crawley, Australia. 

Kate Senior
School of Health and Society
University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Sue McMullen
Cairns, Australia.

Precocious Pregnancy, Sexual Conflict, and Early Childbearing in Remote Aboriginal Australia

pages 243-261

Ideas from evolutionary theory and a consideration of social and cultural factors are used to argue that teenage pregnancy in three remote Aboriginal communities represents a strategic response to current environments characterised by pervasive and sustained risk and uncertainty. Ethnographic studies of the communities find that these environments both provoke and enable the reproductive strategies of adolescent boys and girls but raise the question of the effects of father absent socialisation.



Robert K. Hitchcock

Department of Anthropology
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM

Authenticity, Identity, and Humanity: The Hai‖om San and the State of Namibia

pages 262-284


The Hai‖om are the largest and most widely dispersed San population in Namibia. Like many other San peoples in Southern Africa, the Hai‖om were dispossessed, marginalised, and discriminated against by other groups and by the colonial state. In 1949, the South West African administration appointed a Commission for the Preservation of the Bushmen, chaired by a former Stellenbosch University professor, P.J. Schoeman, one of the architects of apartheid in South Africa. When the final report of the Commission was published in 1953, the Hai‖om were ignored, in part because Schoeman did not see them as ‘real' or ‘authentic' Bushmen. The Hai‖om were removed from their ancestral homeland in what was designated as Etosha National Park in 1953–1954. This paper examines the efforts of the Hai‖om to seek land and resource rights and political recognition from the 1980s to the present. The Namibian government appointed a Hai‖om Traditional Authority, David//Khamuxab, in 2004, established a San Development Office in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in 2005, and in 2007 began purchasing commercial farms for purposes of resettlement of Hai‖om. Statements by Namibian government officials underscore the importance of humanity and compassion in the ways in which the Hai‖om San issue has been addressed. It remains to be seen, however, whether the Hai‖om of Etosha will be treated the same way as other Hai‖om and other historically disadvantaged or marginalised communities in Namibia.



Maria Sapignoli

Department of Law and Anthropology
Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology
Halle (Saale), Germany

Dispossession in the Age of Humanity: Human Rights, Citizenship, and Indigeneity in the Central Kalahari

pages 285-305


Over the past 50 years, the Central Kalahari region of Botswana became a site of struggles over land and resources rights, identity, citizenship, and indigeneity. The policies of the government of Botswana towards the San express the dominant Tswana perspectives on humanity and what is considered human. Since independence in 1966 the goals of the government of Botswana have been to sedentarise the San and to transform them into ‘modern’ citizens who live in villages, keep livestock, and engage in agriculture and business. In this paper I analyse the case of the people of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and their battles over rights and recognition as citizens of Botswana and as human beings. I examine how the government's decisions to deny Central Kalahari residents their distinct rights to natural resources such as wildlife—in spite of High Court decisions in the San's favour—as well as rights to services and development shared by other citizens—are linked to the dominant Tswana understanding of humanity.