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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Presentation Details

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Dynamics of Land and Identity in Pacific Asia: Reflections on Indigenous Identity

Dr Robert Cribb.

During the twentieth century, being indigenous came to have a political value which it had not previously enjoyed. Whereas indigenous peoples were once widely seen as only loosely attached to land and as lacking the ability or knowledge to use land effectively, after about 1950 it became increasingly accepted that indigenes were more attached to the land and that they knew the land better than more recent arrivals. This change of attitude has not invariably delivered rights to indigenous peoples, but it has given them a standing in the debate which they previously lacked. This paper examines the changing political meaning of indigenousness, arguing that the arguments for indigenous rights draw both on profoundly modern ideas of the value of prior discovery and profoundly post-modern scepticism about the capacity of modern technology to manage the environment adequately.


Dr Robert Cribb  (Australia)
Senior Fellow
Pacific and Asian History, RSPAS
Australian National University

  • Land
  • Landscape
  • Indigenous identity
  • Priority

(30 min Conference Paper, English)