At the meeting I circulated a précis outlining the evolution of my thoughts with regard to my Master’s Research topic and challenges that I had faced in the time since we last met. In this document I departed from my original thesis topic, Metaphors that connect: language as reflection of Yolŋu relationships to country, and provided justification for this. The reworked topic which I presented was, The political act of being with: experiences of Mäpuru Yolŋu in the Arnhem Weaving workshops.
Through conversation Michael suggested framing the topic as such:
The political act of being with: Exploring the philosophical work of Yolŋu women in Mäpuru through the Arnhem Weaving workshops.
As soon as M suggested exploring the philosophical and more specifically, ontological aspects of the Mäpuru women’s experiences, I felt as though the topic had ‘landed’.
The relationships between language, country/people and worldview and encapsulating these, a sense of being.
A common experience of women who participate in the Arnhem Weaving workshops is to be adopted by a Mäpuru Yolŋu. A key question that may help to shape my research is why do Yolŋu put Balanda into the gurruṯu system? Is it to place order on the Balanda world? Alternatively, is it an act of generosity and grace? Perhaps I can explore the ontological work of Yolŋu in re-shaping the world (the interface with Balanda) to make it less chaotic more integrated/holistic.
Other key questions/themes that emerged during our discussions were:
- Exploring a Yolŋu philosophical framework
- How do Yolŋu re-make the Balanda world in a generative way?
- Emergent reality in a Yolŋu world
- The nature of language in a Yolŋu world
- Language produces the world
- Epiphenomenon of Yolŋu world
- Language as an offshoot of people being on place: right people, right place
o No distinction between people and country (?)
o Yolŋu trying to keep things (country, language, people) together (assuming they already are part of a whole and not separate)
§ Stories of unification and holding together?
§ Preventing nature/culture dualisms: redacting ancestral narratives
· The agency of metaphors
A possible goal of my research/project could be to make more accessible stories in Ritharrŋu language. The two women who I hope to collaborate with in my research, M and B, are speakers of a number of Yolŋu Matha, but primarily Ritharrŋu. There is potential for artefacts, stories and other representations of stories (e.g. visual representations), to be uploaded onto the Arnhem Weavers website as a way of sharing these weaver’s experiences with a broader audience. By sharing representations of M and B’s stories, I would hope to bring greater visibility to what these Mäpuru women are trying to say about, ‘being themselves and united with their ancestry’ (Michael Christie). In essence, putting into words and images the seeing of another world.
M is going to forward me articles on auto-ethnographic research. One of the benefits of using an auto-ethnographic approach would be its ability to render me as the ‘stranger’. I, my reactions and responses to stories shared, would become the object of anthropological analysis, rather than the Yolŋu women I am collaborating with. The dynamic that emerges here gives authority to and normalises Yolŋu philosophical perspectives, ontologies and cultural practices. Also, by using this approach I can practice being reflexive throughout my Masters, a process which I seem to be doing naturally. Perhaps I can begin to turn my journal writing into a private blog so that it is recorded in a more accessible way?
The suggestion was made that I go back and look at the YACI website (Yolŋu philosophy of knowledge and education articles). M also has a box of Yolŋu research papers which I can look through and photocopy. J has a number of recordings of stories told by M and L in Mäpuru about the Arnhem Weaving workshops. He will forward some of these on to me so that I can transcribe and translate them (need to be clear on how I can use these – are they on the public record so that I am able to use them in my research?). Y’s sister Y may be able to work on the project as a translator of stories told in Ritharrŋu language.