Article ID: CBB001201577

“Why Can't They Put Their Names?”: Colonial Photography, Repatriation and Social Memory (2014)


This paper explores the relationships between a particular photographic archive, Indigenous Australians and early ethnography. Colonial ethnographers, Spencer and Gillen, travelled throughout Central and Northern Australia in 1901 and 1902. Their experiences in the town of Borroloola with the local Indigenous peoples, in particular the Yanyuwa people, are contrasted to their experiences in other regions that they travelled through. While at Borroloola, Spencer and Gillen photographed a number of Yanyuwa men and women. In 1981, the repatriation of those images back into the community facilitated discussion about the appropriate positioning of each individual in Yanyuwa systems of kinship, and debate around the ceremonial details recorded, informing new layers of social memory. Yanyuwa elders expressed joy at viewing, naming and positioning the long deceased kin but when the identity of the person could not be recalled, responses conveyed a deep sense of loss. This paper explores the response to one of these photographs and explores in detail the resonances that this one photograph holds for the Yanyuwa community.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Article Attenbrow, Valerie J.; Cartwright, Caroline R.; (2014)
An Aboriginal Shield Collected in 1770 at Kamay Botany Bay: An Indicator of Pre-Colonial Exchange Systems in South-Eastern Australia (/isis/citation/CBB001422060/) unapi

Article Willmott, Cory; (2014)
Beavers and Sheep: Visual Appearance and Identity in Nineteenth-Century Algonquian-Anglo Relations (/isis/citation/CBB001201576/) unapi

Article Hilary Howes; (2019)
Lothar Becker’s Contributions to Anthropology (/isis/citation/CBB428689866/) unapi

Article N. A. J. Taylor; (2021)
The Visual Politics of Maralinga: Experiences, (Re)presentations, and Vulnerabilities (/isis/citation/CBB755235573/) unapi

Chapter Wellington, Jennifer; (2012)
Narrative as History, Image as Memory: Exhibiting the Great War in Australia, 1917--41 (/isis/citation/CBB001201470/) unapi

Article Hawkins, Stephanie; (2008)
Savage Visions: Ethnography, Photography, and Local-Color Fiction in National Geographic (/isis/citation/CBB001032451/) unapi

Article Gray, Geoffrey; (2003)
“There are many difficult problems”: Ernest William Pearson Chinnery, Government Anthropologist (/isis/citation/CBB000411168/) unapi

Book Ned Blackhawk; Isaiah Lorado Wilner; (2018)
Indigenous Visions: Rediscovering the World of Franz Boas (/isis/citation/CBB479858176/) unapi

Book Schröder, Wilfried; (2002)
Ich reiste wie ein Buschmann: zum Leben und Wirken des Australienforschers Erhard Eylmann (/isis/citation/CBB000470233/) unapi

Article Bennett, Tony; Dibley, Ben; Harrison, Rodney; (2014)
Introduction: Anthropology, Collecting and Colonial Governmentalities (/isis/citation/CBB001201581/) unapi

Book Edwards, Elizabeth; Hart, Janice; (2004)
Photographs, Objects, Histories: On the Materiality of Images (/isis/citation/CBB000470068/) unapi

Article Edwards, Elizabeth; (2014)
Photographic Uncertainties: Between Evidence and Reassurance (/isis/citation/CBB001201583/) unapi

Article Qureshi, Sadiah; (2011)
Robert Gordon Latham, Displayed Peoples, and the Natural History of Race, 1854--1866 (/isis/citation/CBB001023390/) unapi

Book Fieschi, Caroline; (2008)
Photographier les plantes au XIXe siècle: la photographie dans les livres de botanique (/isis/citation/CBB000950234/) unapi

Book Dove, Michael; Carpenter, Carol; (2008)
Environmental Anthropology: A Historical Reader (/isis/citation/CBB001035147/) unapi

Article Hoffmann, Christoph; (2009)
Representing Difference: Ernst Mach and Peter Salcher's Ballistic-Photographic Experiments (/isis/citation/CBB000932175/) unapi

Authors & Contributors
Edwards, Elizabeth
Hart, Janice
Gray, Geoffrey
Schröder, Wilfried
Hoffmann, Christoph
Fieschi, Caroline
History and Anthropology
Journal of Pacific History
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
Historical Journal
Arizona Quarterly
WP Druck & Verlag
Blackwell Publishers
Yale University Press
Cultural anthropology
Indigenous peoples; indigeneity
Chinnery, Ernest William Pearson
Eylmann, Erhard
Salcher, Peter
Mach, Ernst
Latham, R. G. (Robert Gordon)
Stirling, Edward Charles
United States
New Guinea
Berlin (Germany)
Great Britain
20th century, early
19th century
20th century
18th century
Crystal Palace

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment