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The social organisation of Wadeye's heavy metal mobs

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Please send correspondence to John Mansfield: jbmansfield@gmail.com

Abstract

The heavy metal mobs of Wadeye (notorious in the media as ‘heavy metal gangs’) are a new form of Aboriginal social organisation, almost entirely constituted by collateral kinship rather than descent relations. Dozens of overlapping mobs are each made up of sets of brothers and cousins, and are publicly symbolised by the name of a heavy metal band discovered via mass media. In contrast to recent Australianist anthropology that emphasises the fluidity of social structures and intercultural processes of identity formation, I argue that the metal mobs constitute a highly codified system of social organisation, and one in which non-Aboriginal cultural influences are quite peripheral.

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