City dreaming

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  • Published 20160421
  • ISBN: 978-1-925240-81-8
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

White man got no dreaming
Him go ’nother way
White man him go different.
Him got road belong himself.

THESE WORDS, SPOKEN by an old Aboriginal man to the anthropologist WEH Stanner more than six decades ago, still resonate in the Australian imagination. There is pity in the speaker’s words and wistfulness in Stanner’s as he recalls them. In following his own road, the white man has missed a better way: the mysterious Aboriginal man’s knowledge he called ‘Dreaming’. Dreaming, Stanner explains in his famous essay of the same name, is not just a mythical world located in a distant past, but a living force that operates in the here and now. It defies the pervasive binaries of Western thought –present/past, nature/culture, sacred/profane – testifying instead to a deep ‘abidingness’ manifest in the intimate relationship between Indigenous people and their land. ‘No English words are good enough to give a sense of the link between an Aboriginal group and its homeland,’ Stanner later wrote in The Dreaming and Other Essays (Black Inc., 2009).[1] The Dreaming expresses a belonging beyond the white man’s ability to understand or attain.

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About the author

Graeme Davison

Graeme Davison is emeritus professor of history, Monash University. He has published widely on the history of Australian cities. His latest book is Lost...

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