This lively book brings the reader close to the people from a remote cattle station in far north Australia, where black and white peoples' lives have been intertwined over the span of 80 years. Tracing the humorous, savage and ordinary ways in which race structured intimate and everyday relationships across a great divide, Gillian Cowlishaw makes startling and original arguments about race relations.
By investigating specific patterns of interaction on Australia's cultural frontier, Rednecks, Eggheads and Blackfellas illustrates how anthropologists, pastoralists and government officials squabbled about Aborigines as they intruded into their country, controlled aspects of their lives, and dominated the way they were represented in the public realm. The ironic title hints that the difference between 'redneck' pastoralists and 'egghead' anthropologists is not so great as might be imagined. Aborigines were central to the projects of both kinds of whitefellas.
Weaving the shifts in government policy and public opinion with accounts of their sometimes ludicrous impact on outback communities, this book brings to life the complexities of living with racial categories. And it asks why increasingly enlightened anti-racist policies seldom seem to have worked as intended, even in this era of self-determination.
This thought provoking work will speak not only to anthropologists and those interested in Aboriginal Australia, but to scholars of race more generally, especially in the burgeoning field of whiteness studies.