Fantastic Dreaming explores how whites have measured Australian Aboriginal people through their material culture and domestic practices, aspects of culture intimately linked to Enlightenment notions of progress and social institutions such as marriage and property. Archaeological investigation reveals that the Moravian missionaries' attempts to "civilize" the Wergaia-speaking people of northwestern Victoria centered on spatial practices, housing, and the consumption of material goods. After the mission closed in 1904, white observers saw the camp settlements that formed nearby as evidence of Aboriginal incapacity and immorality, rather than as symptoms of exclusion and poverty. Conceptions of transformation as acculturation survived in assimilation policies that envisioned Aboriginal people becoming the same as whites through living in European housing. These ideas persist in archaeological analysis that insists on Aboriginality as otherness and difference, and equates objects with identity. However Wergaia tradition was place-based, and, often invisibly, Indigenous people maintained traditional relationships to kin and country, resisting white authority through strategies of evasion and mobility. This study examines the complex role of material culture and spatial politics in shaping colonial identities and offers a critique of essentialism in archaeological interpretation.
About the Author
Jane Lydon is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Australian Indigenous Studies at Monash University.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Preface Chapter 2 Chapter 1. 'they covet not Magnificent Houses, Houshold-stuff' Chapter 3 Chapter 2. Orienting the Wergaia Chapter 4 Chapter 3. The Example of Ebenezer Chapter 5 Chapter 4. 'Fantatic Dreaming:' space, power, and the Mission-house Chapter 6 Chapter 5. 'All these little things:' material culture and domesticity Chapter 7 Chapter 6. After the mission closed, 1904-1930: Antwerp Chapter 8 Chapter 7. 'The outskirts of civilization' 1930-1960s Chapter 9 Chapter 8. 'A handle of a cup:' changing views of the missions
What People are Saying About This
Lydon's Fantastic Dreaming represents an important contribution to our understanding of the complexities of cross-cultural exchange in Australian history. Focused on the mission site of Ebenezer in Victoria, Lydon skillfully weaves a story of transformation and persistence that is grounded in a deep engagement with the place, its people, and material culture recovered through survey and excavation. Significantly, Lydon's story acknowledges the importance of Ebenezer to those whose lives it has touched in so many ways, and it provides an exemplar of how researchers and indigenous people can together create compelling history.
This book adds another layer to our increasing understanding of the nuances and subtleties of culture contact and colonialism in all its guises. Lydon provides an account of mission society that is rich in detail and profound in sensitivity. Archaeologists would be wise to emulate her exhaustive research program and her multiscalar, multicultural perspective. She sets a high standard for historical archaeology.