Monthly Archives: May 2012

What do stories ‘do’?

This question keeps popping up in different places, so it seems like I need to dwell here for a while, look at what is going on and contemplate. On Saturday L referred to Carolyn Ellis (autoethnographer) and her writing on stories; mainly, the ability of stories to stir action. I visited a few of Ellis’ articles on autoethnography in writing my research proposal. I don’t think I made some important connections though, not until M did a final reading of this proposal.
Ellis, Adams and Bochner (2011) refer to the potential for autoethnographies to be political, socially-just and a socially-conscious act. This implies that stories have agency, that they can ‘do’ things. M is always talking about stories and what they ‘do’; Yolŋu and Actor Network Theory perspectives on this also suggest that stories have agency and can perform as powerful actors.
Verran and Winthereik (2012, p. 4) add that ‘Adequate stories are agential in the sense that they “find audiences” and in the sense of surprising, challenging, and offereing something to somebody.’
How might stories of collective acts of being withcountry inform the everyday lives of the reader? Will they hold agency and the potential to intervene in people’s lives?
I could keep writing on this tangent, but I feel like that there is a ‘fish’ that is trying to pop its head up to the surface. For me this blog is a process… at first it was about just starting to write, then developing confidence in my writing… a progression to having a tool that enables me to be reflexive in my research practice.
Even now I feel the need to bring more awareness to my writing process and peel back the layers of reflexivity… I find it interesting that I haven’t yet written about blogging as a process and research practice. I am just ‘doing it’ and keeping silent in these pages the inner critic that so often tells me I am being self-indulgent, boring, uninteresting, irrelevant… blah, blah, blah. Am I still wanting things to look glossy on the surface? Looking good, sounding good, proving myself, being ‘good enough’ and all the other limiting thoughts that I try to keep to myself and pretend that they are not actors in my research – I know the force they exert and how big this gets when I pretend they’re not there.
Ellis, C, Adams, T & Bochner, A 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Historical Social Research, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 273-90.

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Exploring other and self-other

In the TED Talk below Elizabeth Lesser talks about her lunch invitation of someone she had “othered” – someone with a fundamentally different politic to her. She talks about two people dropping their pretense of ‘know it all’ and shares Rumi’s pertinent poem… Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. 

But what if we did this with people we “other” for reasons that are not just political? I am not making any assumptions that social harmony is just one conversation away, but I do think that there is a profound power in listening, being heard and understanding. Neutrality comes to mind here – a place that allows us to listen to people who have different views/ideas/politics/religion/etc. For me neutrality in listening is about striping away my lenses, being aware of the voices in my head that want to challenge everything that the “other” person is saying, allowing me to connect with or acknowledge someone else’s view despite my internal reactions. Assumptions also come to mind… when I put these aside in my listening, there is space for emergence, creativity and shared possibilities to be born.
When I think of the process of othering it is not only with regard to people but place. For me othering functions as a cleaver to disconnect us from who/what we are connected to, even if we don’t realise it. So is the discourse and process of self-othering an appropriate response or the one that fits best for my exploration? Or, have I just headed in that direction because I wasn’t sure how else not to “other”?
Gruenwald raises the premise that people are connected to ‘earthly phenomena’ and there is an opening to explore the ‘embodied sense of connection gives rise to a different ontology, an ontology of self becoming-other in the space between self and the natural world, composed of humans and non-human others, animate and inanimate; animals and plants, weather, rocks, trees’ (Somerville, Power & Carteret 2009, p. 9).
So what does it mean and feel like to be a self becoming-other??? More on this later…


Somerville, M, Power, K & Carteret, Pd 2009, ‘Introduction: Place Studies for a Global World ‘, in M Somerville, K Power & Pd Carteret (eds), Landscapes and Learning: Place Studies for a Global World, Sense Publishers, Rotterdam, pp. 3-20.

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Spirals everywhere

From my dad

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Spirals and circles

One of things we contemplated and explored in our deep listening circle yesterday was how we make meaning of spirals and circles. For me spirals are about going in to the heart, our core, and taking with us the nutrients we need to be whole. Like casting a net and catching fish… or maybe a fish trap that funnels in… collecting the feelings, ideas and knowledge that help us to transform. I remember the winter solstice spiral that J made out of candles when I lived at Wollangarra. A slow and intentional walk, a going in, and emerging back out with resolution and a deeper knowing. A part of me wonders why the centre of a spiral is not more prominent. But spirals are dynamic, by virtue of their form they beckon movement. Is there a gentle reminder here to maintain a flow?

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The pull

I remember taking this photo of footprints in the sand as I walked from Quondong to Walmadany in 2007. An intense heat and a burning clarity. The colours keep speaking to me even now. They keep whispering to my heart… come back, come back, come back…

From last year’s journal. Done whilst in Mäpuru.

I was speaking with J last night about the afternoon footy game on the beach and in the water at Dugal (Flat Rock) during the Lurujarri trail in 2000. Back then there felt like there was so possibility, for everyone, for people staying connected with country. I don’t know how to describe what I feel now… hope despite the black cloud? Then we walked together on country, shared fire and food under Marella ( What is emerging now out of people standing up for country together? Love? Compassion? Understanding? Connection?

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Riding past on my bike to uni today the Jingili bridge was underwater. Pandanas, grass and path all submerged. This ‘super’ moon lingers although it may have set. Reminders everywhere of its pull… water and water and water. It felt like the land was holding its breath. Then I remember to breathe. The vastness of the sea just stretched out in front into an endless plane.

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A real stronger future

Yolngu say NO to ‘Stronger Futures’ legislation and YES to self determination…

This is the whole statement from Yolŋu Nations Assembly. A meeting with clan and community leader representatives from Miliŋinbi, Raminginiŋ, Gapuwiyak, Galiwin’ku, Yirrkala and Maningrida met last week at Raminginiŋ. They are calling for self-determination and an end to interventionist legislation.

To the Leaders of the Australian Federal and Northern Territory Parliaments:

1. The Yolŋu Nations reject the Stronger Futures Bill (and those associated) and call on the Senate to discard these Bills in full. We have clearly informed you that we do not support the legislation.

The Australian Federal Government can achieve all its aims through partnership in our communities. They have no need to grant themselves the continued and new powers contained within these Bills.

2. Until the Stronger Futures Bill (and those associated) are thrown out of the Australian Federal Parliament, the Yolŋu Nations call on all traditional owners across the Northern Territory to refuse:
a) participation in land lease negotiations with the Australian Federal Government, and
b) approval for any exploration licenses

3. The traditional owners (T.Os) of prescribed community lands have been placed under extreme pressure from the Australian Federal Government to grant them head leases over these communities. T.Os want independently facilitated negotiations that can result in enhancing the interests of both the T.Os and the Australian Federal Government.

4. The Land Councils are increasingly being pressured by Government to act outside their roles and become agencies of Government. We want our Land Councils to advocate for our needs and not have their independence curtailed by Government funding arrangements and political interference.

The Yolŋu Nations call on the Australian Federal Parliament to ask the Auditor General for a review of the relationship between the Australian Federal Government and the Land Councils of the Northern Territory.

5. The Yolŋu Nations call on both the Australian Federal and Northern Territory Governments to end their interventionist policies and agendas, and return to a mindset of partnership based on the principles of Self-Determination.

6. The Yolŋu Nations call on the Northern Territory Government to reform the structures of local government (the Shires) to better reflect Yolŋu and 1st People’s government structures which will provide a more locally based and accessible form of local government.

7. The Yolŋu Nations call for an end to the Northern Territory Government’s Working Futures policy. For the sustainable social and economic development of our society Homelands need to be considered equal to communities that were former mission and government settlements.

8. The Yolŋu Nations call for an end to the Northern Territory Government’s Compulsory Teaching in English for the First Four Hours of Each School Day policy. To be successful we need education with instruction in our Yolŋu languages through all levels of schooling.

Djirrkaymirr Rev. Dr. Djiniyini Gondarra
Spokesperson Yolŋuw Makarr Dhuni

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