Anatomies of Relatedness: Considering Personhood in Aboriginal Australia



ABSTRACT  Anthropologists have described Aboriginal Australian personhood in various ways. In 1986, Myers spoke about the tension between autonomy and relatedness that he identified as intrinsic aspects of Pintupi identity. More recently, Keen (2006) has identified the extension of Yolngu persons in time and space; others have described Aboriginal personhood as “dividual.” Based on ethnography from the northwest Kimberley region of Western Australia, I argue that one way of characterizing personhood is as an ontology of embodied relatedness. In this, I draw inspiration from Ashforth's (2011) approach to relational realism, in which he extends the field of relations under consideration to entities beyond the human. I also consider Viveiros de Castro's (2009) synthesis of kinship, exchange, and magic to argue that the relationship between these can be understood through the embodied relationality that is at the core of cultural conceptions of the person. [personhood, Aboriginal Australia, relatedness, embodiment]