Cool interactive aboriginal map

I’ve blurbed about the long-handled “Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies”: (AIATSIS to its friends) and their extremely prolific “Aboriginal Studies Press”: in the past. One thing well worth checking out on their site is a cool “interactive map of aboriginal ethnic groups”:

Most of my research is about how problematic maps which divide aboriginal identities and territorial claims into externally-bounded, internally homogenous “billiard ball” type units a la Eric Wolf can be. But I’m not an aboriginal expert, so what do I know about Australia? Plus also the map is really cool.


Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at

7 thoughts on “Cool interactive aboriginal map

  1. Michael,

    That is amazing. I just wish they had put subtitles or transcripts of the audio, I can’t understand a thing people are saying. And not just because of the accent, the audio engineering is unfortunately quite poor. But I’ve been teaching Eric Michaels to my class and this could be very useful!!!

  2. Kerim–When I listened to the video segments (after being invited by the journal to post comments about the project), I don’t recall having much trouble understanding the audio. But I agree that they have a rough-edged quality, with lots of wind noise, etc. That said, it struck me as an unusually creative way to bring home key points about Aboriginal notions of “country” that are often frustratingly abstract in other kinds of accounts.

  3. Perhaps accent is a factor, presumably you are more familiar with the accent. But it is certainly compounded by wind noise and such, which a good sound engineer can do a lot to reduce. I’m particularly frustrated by this because my Taiwanese students (half of whom are Taiwanese Aborigines) are second language learners of English and if I’m having difficulty understanding this it will be impossible for them!

  4. First, I want to thank Michael for citing the digital dynamics website in this forum and Chris for letting me know it was being discussed. On the topic of sound quality let me just say that we decided specifically not to translate the audio because the site (as I state in the introduction) is not a “learning site.” It is not supposed to be a place to learn about Warumungu culture. Instead, the site advances the argument that indigenous (specifically here Warumungu) intellectual property systems with their specific sets of protocols surrounding the distribution, reproduction and extension of knowledge challenge the dominant IP discussions that fall either to the “free culture” side or the “piracy” side. Neither of these debates can account for or contain the dynamic system of knowledge creation and distribution that we attempt to highlight in the site.

    Therefore, the sound quality was not a factor because like some of the other techniques we employed (blocking pictures, cutting out parts of audio etc) the goal was to frustrate the privileged Internet user who assumes that “information is free” and available without conditions.

  5. I don\’t know if you are familiar with Eric Michaels work, but he has the same goals as you, although he died before the whole \”free culture\” movement. That is why this site would be useful for working with my students. However it seems that you have decided in advance that you don\’t care if my students can use your site or not.

    I understand not wanting to teach about \”culture\” but if you want to teach about knowledge systems using texts you need to make those texts understandable. The poor quality of the audio is due to the incompetence of those who recorded it, and has nothing to do with Aboriginal constraints on knowledge. There is a big difference between blocking out parts of the audio and having poor quality audio.

  6. You have either misread or misconstrued what I said above. I do in fact write and teach about culture all the time. This website was part of a project whose goal was to advance a different argument. I have not decided in advance that I don’t want your students to learn, what I decided was the topic, focus and intent of this particular argument. The goal of the Vectors project set out by USC was to use technology to make an argument rather than make it in writing as we normally do in academe. To that end, we use the disruptions to make a point about Aboriginal systems of knowledge management. I would think that would be beneficial to your students.

    The poor quality of the audio is in fact not due to incompetence. The quality on some has been purposely distorted and on others the “background” noises purposely not filtered out because the Aboriginal people with whom I work wanted them left in and they also wanted to record “in country” which often made the settings less than ideal.

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