This reprint is of particular relevance to Koories of Kurnai descent and to all students of Aboriginal anthropology and the history of ideas. It was already a classic in 1899, when Spencer and Gillen dedicated The Native Tribes of Central Australia, to Howitt and Fison, 'who laid the foundation of our knowledge of Australian anthropology'. Professor AP Elkin told the 1961 conference inaugurating the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, that 'the publication of Kamilaroi and Kurnai in 1880 was a landmark in Australian anthropology'. Indeed, this was the first major analysis of Aboriginal social structure, adopting a model today termed 'social Darwinist' theory. This evolutionist approach is now rejected, but it exerted tremendous influence on European attitudes for decades. It is an important sourcebook for such ideas. Lewis Henry Morgan, who wrote the preface, was a founding father of American anthropology. His Ancient Society, which drew upon his correspondence with Fison and Howitt, influenced the Marxist classic The Origin of the Family, by Frederick Engels.
Although Fison's chapters are theoretical and general, Howitt's are packed with rich detail, such as the names of his informants and localities. This lifts his section beyond the realm of abstract and outmoded theory, although it includes material which today would be classed as secret.
Buy Kamilaroi and Kurnai book by Lorimer Fison from Australia's Online Independent Bookstore, Boomerang Books.
(140mm x 215mm x 18mm)
Aboriginal Studies Press
Publisher: Aboriginal Studies Press
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Author Biography - Lorimer Fison
Lorimer Fison was Wesleyan missionary, anthropologist, and journalist. William Howitt was an explorer, natural scientist, and pioneer authority on Aboriginal culture and social organization.