The genealogy of the genealogical method: Discoveries, Disseminations and the Historiography of British Anthropology

Associate Professor Helen Gardner, 11 May 2016

[INAUDIBLE]. Everyone's so prompt in coming. It's my great pleasure today to introduce-- um-- doc-- um--

Associate Professor.

--Associate Professor Helen Gardner, from Deakin University, who is giving our lecture today. I firstly want to, though, acknowledge the traditional owners of this area-- of the Melbourne area-- the people of the Kulin nation-- the Eastern Kulin clans-- of the Boonwurrung and Woiwurrung clans and also acknowledge any traditional owners who are here in the audience today.

And it's a great pleasure to introduce this talk today because it also is sort of foundational from Helen's book, which she also happens to have over here, which she will talk about. And also we'll be continuing a formal association with the museum after this, because we succeeded last week in being successful with an ARC Linkage application for a project to continue looking at the Howitt and Fison papers. But it's a collaboration with Deakin, University of Victoria, State Library of Victoria, and the Victorian Aboriginal-- um--


--Languages Corporation.

Yes, that's right. And the Native Title? Yes.

Oh, yeah, Native Title Services, as well. So congratulations to all of us-- the people who are here-- for success with that. It's also of particular interest to me, because, of course, genealogy is a foundation of anthropological practise, still, today, and that will be something that you also challenge in your discussion today. So I won't talk any more. I'll hand over to Helen.

Thanks very much, Lindy, and thanks to the museum for having me. I'd like to start by also acknowledging the traditional owners of this land, the Woiwurrung and Boonwurrung people of the Kulin nation. I'd also like to thank and acknowledge in particular Mary Morris, whose work really generated some of the key findings of this paper. And I'd like to acknowledge also Jay Gibson, who was helpful, as well, on working on this, and Philip Batty, who was central really to the project-- the ARC project-- coming to fruition and finally getting up, which was very, very exciting for us. So, thank you.

But I'd also like to start by acknowledging the death of Patrick Wolfe, a very important historian of anthropology. In some ways, my book is a little bit of a challenge to Patrick Wolfe's methodological approach. My book is actually based more on the primary sources, and that's really where I want to take you to today-- the historical sources. But Patrick Wolfe's major finding on the issues of settler colonialism is absolutely central. So I'd like to knowledge the importance of Patrick Wolfe and how sad we are at his passing.

So, without further ado-- and I hope that this isn't too kind of embedded in the history of anthropology. You may find that I assume a little bit of knowledge about that. So we'll see how we go with it. So let's start.

Using Malinowski as his example par excellence, Stocking has noted anthropology's propensity for historical mythic moments and cult heroes. That Rivers-- WHR Rivers-- developed the genealogical method for the collection of kinship data is etched deeply into the history of the discipline as a crucial origin myth. Rivers's place in the history of anthropology as the founder of the genealogical method is assured and recognised to this day, both as a critique in the new kinship studies or in celebration.

"The event was of such magnitude," noted historian of science Langham in University of Sydney-- "the event was of such magnitude that all modern social anthropologists, whether they recognise the fact or not, are the intellectual and methodological heirs of Rivers." That Rivers was not the first to use the genealogical method, as demonstrated in this seminar, does not deny his importance in the history of the discipline, as he clearly spread the method through British anthropology. But it does question the linear narrative of the development of anthropological field methods and points to other sites, to other strands of anthropological history, and to the failures of our models of historical analysis.

So this seminar will track through distinct forms of genealogical collection, preceding and alongside Rivers's work on the Torres Strait Islands. The seminar will also explore-- to some extent, depending on time-- the concealing and exposing of alternative evidence through archival practises, through technological innovations, and through financial considerations in reproducing material. OK, let's see how we go.

Lewis Henry Morgan's American kinship queries, developed through his close proximity with Eli Parker, who's listed here-- an Iroquois man-- were spread around the world through from the 1860s to the early 1870s. He sent out a printed schedule of about-- well, not "about"-- exactly 218, questions-- page after page after page of requests for kinship terms. It was a study enabled by the significant funds of American research and backed by the diplomatic clout of the US Department of State. In fact, the secretary of state under President Buchanan offered the US consul offices as a clearinghouse for returned schedules.

Morgan knew, from personal experience from the kinship schedules that he had already completed, that working on a schedule was a very difficult task. And, as a result, he provided detailed instructions in a long introduction to his questionnaire that conveyed the complexity of the investigation and also the implicit relativity and reflexivity of the task. He urged the collector to begin by formulating an explicit knowledge of his or her own kinship system-- very, very interesting, for this period.

Then he positioned the investigator as the central point of the collection process. He said "The word 'my' is the starting point-- the point occupied by myself, the questioner. The relationship sought is that which the person at the opposite end bears to me. Thus, my father's brother's son's wife"-- do the sums in your head-- "is my sister-in-law."

He also provided clear instructions on collecting the term from the male or female perspective and acknowledged this made the task much more complex. Morgan requested that the kin term be provided both in the language being studied and also in English. And he provided a space for both in his long, printed form-- daunting printed form.

10 years after Morgan started to send out his long schedule, Lorimer Fison, in the Rewa River-- um-- where is it-- just here-- Rewa River region of Viti Levu, in Fiji-- he was a Methodist missionary there-- received a copy. He was particularly drawn by the similarities between his Rewa River neighbours-- the peoples of the Rewa River-- and Morgan's description of the Tamil and Telugu peoples of southern India, described extensively in Morgan's pamphlet. Fison became deeply involved in the study.

And there's probably too much of that. I got really fascinated by that, so I put probably too much of that in the book.

On his return to the Australian colonies-- he'd come from Australia in the first place. He'd converted to Methodism in Victoria in the late 1850s, gone off to Fiji, and then returned to the Australian colonies in 1871. On his return, he met with a settler from Northern Queensland, probably George Bridgeman, who suggested that the kinship system of the aboriginal people around Mackay had some similarities with those of Rewa in Fiji.

Convinced that Australia and the Pacific Islands would provide further evidence of the system he termed Tamilian-- later Turanian, and now Dravidian-- Fison had his own version of Morgan's schedule printed. But unlike Morgan, who introduced his questionnaire with a 12-page treatise on kinship and its global significance, as well as instructions on how to complete the schedule, Fison's version was printed at his own expense. And, constrained by cost, he provided a mere one-page introduction.

And here's kind of the key points. These were, he said, the salient characteristics of the Tamilian. And so these are the six points of the salient characteristics that he was looking for. So I'll leave that up there.

He gave very, very brief instructions on how to complete a schedule. What he did instead was, he would write a letter-- usually to missionaries, but to others as well-- and he would describe the task, how to fill it all out, and also how complex and difficult it was, and chivied the recipients to the job. The results were relatively meagre, for a start, but he plodded on-- sent out dozens of his schedules to missionaries, settlers, and administrators throughout the Australian colonies and the Pacific Islands.

And here's an example that he got back in 1872. It was filled out, we know, because there's a letter relating to this by James Ngunaitponi, of the Ngarrindjeri people, and George Taplin. Where possible, I've tried to identify the cultural expert who's contributed to the work. And, in this case, it was clearly James Ngunaitponi.

Now Fison knew his schedule was difficult, because he'd completed a number in Fiji. And he struggled to get others to work to the task. But the breakthrough in kinship collection that really does challenge Rivers's place as the founder of the genealogical method came when Gippsland magistrate AW Howitt used the Fison schedule go gather kinship data from his friend, employee, and ethnographic advisor, a man called Tulaba, a Gunaikurnai man of the Brabalung division of the Gunaikurnai people.

After repeated failed attempts to complete the schedule, Howitt and Tulaba used sticks as markers to identify the relationship of one person to another. Through this system, Howitt drew up family trees. And his letter describing this session seems to be lost, though I thought I might have found it in Canberra, at St. Mark's theological college, but I was rushing to-- anyway, it might be there.

But Fison replicated his description of the task in a letter accompanying the four genealogies that were collected from Tulaba. There's one there. As you can see, this isn't a proper noun genealogy. This is just the diagram of descent. Here's another.

They're all reproduced in Fison's letter books. Fison kept these press-copy letter books. I'm really interested in technologies of reproduction in the 19th century-- reproduction of documents. I was actually a printer, myself, before I became an academic, so I've always been fascinated by how these kinds of things work.

So Fison would write out these long letters to Morgan. He would write out the findings of those-- of his collaborators. And then he would put them into his letter book. He would tear off the original copy and send it off, and a copy would be left behind in his letter book.

And this is his description to Morgan of the session. "Howitt found it impossible to make any headway in the schedule. Toolabar soon grew hopelessly bewildered, utterly failing to take in the idea conveyed by a term such as 'my father's, father's sister's son's daughters.'" This is just the level of complexity. 218 questions, going out to further and further levels of kinship.

"But Mr. Howitt, after getting what terms that he could, did not abandon the attempt in despair after the manner of but too many of my correspondents. He hit upon a simple yet ingenious plan which produced admirable results. On the floor, he constructed a sort of family tree representing the members of his own family, with which Toolabar was well acquainted. Each individual was represented by a piece of stick, and Toolabar gave the words by which one stick would address another. The results given here in the accompanying memoranda which I have made"-- no fewer than four families whose diagrams "have been ascertained by means of Toolabar's sticks."

And, for this reason, I really call it the Tulaba-Howitt method. I really think you've got to acknowledge him, there. Fison then used Tulaba and Howitt's trees to combine the family tree with the kinship schedule by numbering the names and then listing the corresponding relationship below. So he created these kind of "call" names-- number 1 calls number three such-and-such, number 4 calls number 5 such-and-such, so this is the way that it worked.

Now, convinced that the new method would furnish more results than the tabulated form, Fison and Howitt drew up a new questionnaire, requesting a genealogical table with brothers and sisters arranged in order of seniority. Once the family tree was completed, the recipient was requested to inquire what term of each relationship the person called another. And this was printed both in Brough Smyth's Aborigines of Victoria and it was also printed as a description, but without any diagrams-- and we'll get to the complexity of printing diagrams-- in the Australasian, Sydney Morning Herald, the Sydney Mail, and the Argus.

The following year, the partners-- realising that actually they needed even better methods-- they developed a new system or a new schedule. And this one was printed actually at Howitt's personal expense. And it offered these options. Now, I'm sorry if it's not big enough. I have got, I hope, slightly larger examples.

So, first of all, there was a truncated kinship list, asking questions-- I think there's about 40 or 30 or so-- on the very first page. So you could fill out the kinship terms for "my brother's sister's wife," et cetera, et cetera. Or you could do the family tree, which was the second option, there, in the next page.

And here is the family tree. And this came directly from Mary Morris. We were so excited to see this. This was such an exciting thing-- we knew that this schedule was out there, but we didn't have any examples. So these are in the archives of the Melbourne Museum.

So this was the family-tree option. There, you have the example of a diagram based on the Tulaba version. And, in the next page, you have these what's called "call numbers." Number 1 calls number 2, number 1 calls number 3, et cetera, et cetera. So the idea is, you fill out the family tree, you number each name, and then you identify the call numbers.

Now these call names essentially combine the tabulated form with a new genealogical system. Now this new schedule was spread throughout the Australian colonies and the Pacific Islands by Fison and Howitt in a relentless hunt for collaborators. And it's very interesting to think about just how extensively this schedule went across these kinds of regions.

In a letter to British anthropologist EB Tyler, Fison described their methods with their 40 or 50 regular correspondents. That's a very significant number, in the 1870s-- 40 or 50 regular correspondents. Letters discussing the findings crisscrossed the mail routes between Fiji, Gippsland, the coast, and the interior of Australia as well as the Pacific Islands.

For instance, say-- "say that Howitt"-- this is a quote-- "say that Howitt gets a piece of information from a mounted trooper or an Oxford graduate who is utilising his classics by riding after cattle on a station in the far north. He makes a copy, adds his remarks, and sends the manuscript to me for mine. I study it and add my notes. The manuscript, so enriched, goes back to the informant and returns with questions answered. However, if any new fact has to be tested, a circular has to be written or printed about it and copied, sent to such of their correspondents as are considered likely to be able to furnish information."

I'm interested in this kind of feedback loop. So they're getting information, they're thinking about how they could investigate it further, and developing new methods and techniques directly related to that. Some recipients took up the task, while many perhaps tried and failed. But even those who didn't return material were nonetheless introduced to the most sophisticated field practises of 19th-century anthropology-- kinship, two methods of collection, social organisation, specific queries on marriage classes-- as it was termed then-- sections, totems, notes on spelling phonetically to ensure accuracy in the returned data.

And it is possible to estimate just how many copies of the various versions were printed and posted. Fison had 500 copies of Morgan's schedule printed. I'm not sure quite how many-- [INAUDIBLE] thinking there's 250 of the short family-tree schedule printed. And I'm not sure how many were printed by Howitt. But it seems that, really, hundreds of copies were sent around.

And here's an example of some of the findings we've had. This is through Pat McConvell, at ANU. These are the south Australian schedules and where they're held. This material is held right around Australia.

So a lot are actually in the Fison letter books that are in the National Library of Australia. There's quite a number in the St. Mark's theological college, which is where a lot of the Fison material ended up. And also there's a lot here at the Melbourne museum. And, as well, we're not sure quite what's available in the state library that's part of the ARC.

So both Fison and Howitt's archives are really filled with complete and incomplete family trees and lists of kinship terms. Estimates of the responses suggest that those archives hold over 100 partial or completed schedule or genealogies. But-- and this is a crucial point relating to this-- the partners did not publish any genealogies-- any true genealogies; we're going to look at what they did publish, later-- or make any attempt to describe their method beyond these printed schedules. They made no attempt to describe it.

Instead, books like Kamilaroi and Kurnai, which was their key book, published in 1880, focused on things like the marriage sections, the failings of British anthropology, in Fison's half of the book, or Howitt's detailed ethnography of the Gunaikurnai people of Gippsland. Nor did they print genealogies in their coauthored articles or-- though there is a form of genealogy, but not a true one, in Howitt's Native Tribes of Southeastern Australia.

So, why didn't they? There is a clue to this absence both in the interests of the period and in the costs of reproduction. Fison and Howitt collected kinship data, while northern theorists were concerned with the origins of human organisation and were particularly intrigued with the section system of Aboriginal people. Therefore, the focus shifted to social organisation and away from kinship.

So the cost of the study, though, was particularly significant to the reproduction of these findings. These men conducted this study as a kind of obsessive hobby. And it was largely financed by them individually, and the cost was never far from their minds. Printing and posting the circulars was one expense. Fison described the problem to one of the great missionary supporters. He said "Perhaps you might fall in with some liberal-minded man interested in ethnological science who would help defray the expenses."

But he knew that the cost of publishing tabulated lists of kinship terms and particularly genealogical terms would be very, very expensive-- genealogical tables. Lewis Henry Morgan's book Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity was filled with kinship tables. Initially, it was projected to cost $7,000 US, in 1865, which would take the entire Smithsonian budget for one year.

Fison knew that publishing these genealogies would be a significant hurdle. And he wrote "The subject on which I am writing is of no general interest whatsoever. The printing expenses, if the results of my inquiries be published, will be so frightfully heavy that no private firm would entertain for a moment the project of publishing any manuscript."

Yet, while Fison and Howitt did not publish their methods for a northern audience, they did pass their field techniques on to Baldwin Spencer and Frank Gillen, who were so impressed by Fison and Howitt that they named their horses after them-- very kind. I'd love to have a horse named after me. And they also dedicated Native Tribes of Central Australia to the men.

Spencer arrived-- Baldwin Spencer arrived in Melbourne from Oxford as Professor of Biology in 1887. Gillen visited Fison and Howitt in Melbourne in August 1895 and described them as, of course, "the ablest Australian anthropologists." Gillen received copies of both Kamilaroi and Kurnai and other papers during this meeting, though Gillen made no mention of receiving the questionnaire. But there is some evidence, I think, that he actually did have it.

So, when you look through Gillen's field notes, you can actually correlate some of his answers to the questions in the questionnaire. But Gillen, it seems, was not particularly taken with the genealogical method and preferred to work with the tabulated table as the alternative form. Remember, you had two options.

So the only published anthropology-- I don't know why that's there. It probably shouldn't be. That's just Howitt and Fison and Kamilaroi and Kurnai.

This is the only published, true published, genealogy-- proper-name genealogy-- that was developed as a result of the work of the Howitt-Tulaba method or the Tulaba-Howitt method. This was done by Robert Codrington, working with probably Edward Wogale and George Sarawia. It's from the Mota people of the Torres islands, in northern Vanuatu. And Robert Codrington, who was the headmaster of the Melanesian mission, was in contact with Fison and received all his materials right through the 1870s.

And this appeared in Robert Codrington's book, 1891, after he'd returned to England. And it's appeared in the Melanesian Studies in Anthropology and Folk-Lore. So this is really the only version that appeared, 1891.

Those that appeared from the Australian colonies were actually what you would term "abstracted" genealogies. That is, the proper names were stripped out, and they became diagrams of descent or diagrams to indicate forms of marriage sections and those kinds of things. Fison published two abstracted genealogies, the Fijian and Kamilaroi, in his article "The Classificatory System of Relationship." Howitt also produced some in his Native Tribes of Southeastern Australia.

It appeared that the Australian anthropologists believed that the genealogy was best displayed to show the systems rather than specific forms. And Spencer and Gillen's Native Tribes of Central Australia included a number of these. In Native Tribes of Southeastern Australia, Howitt described his practise of taking an actual genealogy, stripping it of proper names, and replacing them with section terms or totems. So here's his description.

"The diagram as originally drawn up gave the individual name of each person, the tribe to which he or she belongs, and the class and totem names. As it now stands, the individual names are omitted, having served their purpose, which was to make the foundation of this account of the terms of relationship one of facts and not of inference." That's interesting. So that's the point of Howitt's work.

So we need to skip over just a little bit. OK. So let's think, then, about the development of the genealogical method from the British perspective.

So, while the Australian anthropologists that were using techniques that originated from Morgan's kinship schedule and were further developed with aboriginal and Pacific-island input, the British were planning the field trips for which they became famous. As Spencer and Gillen were publishing Native Tribes of Central Australia in 1898, Haddon and Rivers were landing at the Torres Strait island to begin their extended field work. It was Haddon's second visit, after a solo field trip 10 years earlier. Yet both Haddon and Rivers appeared ignorant of Morgan's method of kinship collection and had no knowledge of the Tulaba-Howitt developments. Instead, they worked on the field methods developed in the armchair, particularly Notes and Queries for the Use of Travelers and Residents.

Let's take you back, quickly, to 1873. So, a year after Fison and Howitt had produced their first version of the genealogical method, the British produced their first edition of Notes and Queries for the Use of Travelers and Residents in Uncivilized Lands. The section on relationships was done by this man, a man called Lubbock, who had written a book called Origin of Civilisation and was considered a very important man-- a friend of Charles Darwin, in Britain.

Now Lubbock clearly had no idea of the difficulty of the kinship collection, though he did have some knowledge of Morgan's study and his theory of evolving kinship forms-- because he nicked it. He nicked Morgan's entire kinship question, all 218 of them, and just reproduced it in Notes and Queries. But what he didn't say was you have to fill it out in the language being studied. He didn't have any indication of whether it was being collected from the perspective of the male or the female. He just listed all these questions.

You can actually correlate them right down-- 218. But he didn't attribute it. Maybe he didn't think it was important.

So all he said was, fill in the following table as far as possible with the names of each. But there is one suggestive addition to the task in Lubbock's section of Notes and Queries that did point, I would suggest, to the future direction of British investigations. He specifically asked for evidence of whether genealogies were maintained within a society. This was not a call for the collection of genealogies but a question on historical memory and the preservation of the past.

Haddon used the first edition of Notes and Queries to frame his thinking in his first visit to the Torres Straits, in his 1889-- I think. I haven't got it written here. He reproduced it in the 1890 volume of the journal of the Anthropological Institute. So Haddon-- you can actually track Haddon's 149-page article in this 1890 volume by just sitting it right across from the Notes and Queries. But he was completely defeated by Lubbock's inadequate instructions for collecting-- "relationship terms," it was called.

So the 1892 edition of Notes and Queries was both kind of most sophisticated on one level but further removed from previous methods. Morgan's long list of kinship queries was stripped out in 1892, so any mention of Morgan was gone for the next version. But there was increasing suggestions that you needed to be careful in the ways in which material was collected. In the preface, the editor of that version urged travellers to confine themselves to taking photographs or drawings-- warned that any attempt to understand social relations required long residence and close association.

So WHR Rivers began to collect genealogies to identify the relationships between those undergoing his psychological tests. As has been noted by numerous historians, he was surprised by the extensive and accurate genealogical knowledge maintained throughout the Torres Straits, and two were published in his first article on the topic. He then published many more, in subsequent reports.

Now Rivers's first article showed that, while he had considerable success in collecting genealogies, he really only had a rudimentary knowledge of kinship. Without either the tabulated forms of Morgan's kinship schedule or the instructions on the completion of the family tree, Rivers really fumbled his way through the task. And here's a quote.

"In collecting the genealogies, I therefore limited myself to as few terms as possible. I found that I could do all that was necessary with five terms-- 'father,' 'mother,' 'child,' 'husband,' and 'wife.' Now care had to be taken to limit these terms to the English sense. The term which was open to the most serious liability to error was that of 'father,' but I was able to make the natives understand very thoroughly that I wanted the proper father." So, nobody else who was using those terms.

So it's very interesting. And actually Rivers has been critiqued on that.

Now it is tempting to ask what Rivers knew and didn't know about the methods that preceded him. It is possible that Rivers had not read Spencer and Gillen's The Native Tribes of Central Australia before he wrote his first paper, but this seems pretty unlikely. Native Tribes of Central Australia was published in London by McMillan-- acknowledged in the British press by mid-January 1899, long before Rivers gave his paper.

In the preface, dated March 1998, Spencer and Gillen thanked both EB Tyler from Oxford, James Frazer from Cambridge, for their careful work on the proofs. Frazer was a keen supporter of the Cambridge expedition to the Torres Straits, and it seems unlikely he might not have passed on both unpublished versions of The Native Tribes to both Haddon and Rivers. And there is a clear hint that Rivers had read Spencer and Gillen's book, because he refers to totem names of the Urabunna people of the country to the west of Lake Eyre, the cicada and crickets used in the genealogical table in Native Tribes-- one of those abstracted descent terms.

So, through the progression of his publications from 1900 to 1912, you can see the development of Rivers's methods. And really, I think, this is the significance why Rivers is so important to this, because he wrote his methods. He wrote about the confusion. He wrote about what this kin term meant to these people. And so he actually developed it, probably much more so than Fison and Howitt had done.

And he was able to publish numerous genealogies. And one of the interesting clues to this, for me as a printer-- none of his published genealogies are on numbered pages. Which is an indication they've all been done as plates. They've been published separately, because of the complexity of the publishing. As soon as you move from movable type-- the movable type of the period-- it becomes much more complicated, much more difficult to publish these terms.

In Native Tribes of Central Australia, they were inserted-- the abstracted genealogies were inserted later as pull-out pages-- very expensive, very complicated to do. But, by now, you've got better printing techniques in Britain, and you could produce these very, very high-quality plates of genealogical tables that were then subsequently inserted into the page. OK.

So it appears that Rivers never really acknowledged the work of the Australian anthropologists Howitt, Fison, Spencer, and Gillen, despite the enormous influence of the latter. And, in fact, Malinowski is one of the key figures for acknowledging this. And it is Malinowski, I would argue, who is the true heir to both the British and the Australian methods. His 1913 book The Family among the Australian Aborigines displayed his close reading of all the Australian material as well as the British one.

So let's just conclude. While the genealogical method was established with clear instructions, during the 1870s, by Howitt and Tulaba, then distributed through the Australian colonies with Fison's help, the method was only ever described in the kinship and social-organization schedules. And only one full version, Codrington's genealogy of the Mota people of Vanuatu, was ever published.

So Fison and Howitt had spent the 1870s collecting this kinship data, using numerous forms, but they never actually managed to publish them. As a result, the extensive kinship material and genealogical material gathered by them, including their instructions, lay buried in the archives, acknowledged really only by Mulvaney in his perceptive essay on Howitt's anthropology. As a result, Rivers's version of the genealogical system became the standard.

And I was really interested, because people often refer to the fact that Rivers published his description of the genealogical method most importantly in the 1912 version of Notes and Queries. And so I thought, oh, I must find a copy of that. Well, there's no copy in Melbourne. There's no-- there is one-- I think there's two or three copies in the whole of Australia. So, for a very important method, it's interesting that it's just--

I finally got hold of a copy in Sydney. And it was actually very, very complicated to try to follow it. It was nowhere near as clean and precise as the Fison-Howitt-Tulaba schedule.

So I might leave it there. I was going to sort of finish with why, in fact, they might have been forgotten, or why-- I mean, apart from the fact that some of the material wasn't published--

You've got time.

Have I got time? OK. All right. I'll just-- another five minutes, then.

That Lorimer Fison and AW Howitt were significant to the origins of anglophone discipline is acknowledged by key international historians-- people like Wolfe, Stocking, Cooper, and Langham-- as well as those focused on the history of the discipline in Australia-- Stanner and Hiatt, for example. They have been acknowledged as founding figures in the study of both kinship and social organisation.

Yet, as an analysis of George Stocking's book suggests-- and this is, right, one of the great bibles of the history of anthropology-- it is very difficult to position Fison and Howitt in this history. And I would argue that this was because of the models of the history of science that were in use at the time that Stocking was writing. This is commonly referred to as the "center-periphery" model of the history of science-- the imperial centre and the colonial periphery.

Now what's interesting-- Stocking wrote this book, 1995-- very, very important book. But by then, for at least 15 years-- 15 years, Amanda? --historians of science in Australia had extensively critiqued the center-periphery model. They said, this is a major failing in the way that we understand histories of science. We need to think about it much more as nodes of investigation-- that, in fact, the centre periphery puts far too much emphasis onto the centre, even though it's in the so-called periphery that many of these observations and developments are coming about.

So it's interesting. And I could go further into George Stocking's analysis. He knows that Fison has partic-- he's done wonderfully incisive vignettes of Codrington and Fison, but he really does struggle to position them in the history of the discipline. And here's his final timeline. This is how, he said, the discipline developed-- anglophone anthropology developed-- from Tyler-- [INAUDIBLE] EB Tyler-- through Haddon, Seligman, Merritt, and Rivers to Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown. Absent from this is any mention of Fison and Howitt or Spencer and Gillen.

Now Stocking was able to do this through his center-periphery model. But it's so wrong, when you actually look at it from this kind of perspective. It makes no real sense. And Fison and Howitt considered themselves as British as anybody else. And that's just one of the ways in which you might see it.

So I'll just finish. While accepting that the proof of precedence diminishes, on an emotional level, the significance of those now relegated to second place-- in this place, Rivers's role in the development of genealogical method-- this seminar suggests that historical challenges to received wisdoms are important beyond the childish desire to be first. They point to the power relations that created the silence or denied the primacy in the first place. They suggest new strands of historical narratives that open up fertile readings of place beyond the perceived centre. And this seminar has explored one of the primary tales of anthropological origins. And I'll leave it there. But thank you.


I'll leave that one up, just because it shows-- Howitt became obsessed with trying different forms of kinship representation. He used this, um-- it was actually taken from the new forms of representing chemical-- um-- um-- diagrams-- you know, chemical equations. And so he thought, maybe I could do this to work out kinship. They were nuts about it. Anyway, I'll leave it there.

Thank you very much, Helen, for a very stimulating discussion. Lots of things in there. And we'll open it to the floor for questions. Anybody got a burning question?

In your research, have you looked much at that connection between Fison, Howitt, and Spencer and Gillen? Because when Spencer turned up, in Melbourne, he was a young-- fairly young guy in his 30s, and Fison and Howitt were seen as the old men of--

That's right.

--anthropology. And they socialised quite a lot.

That's right.

And Gillen came down from [INAUDIBLE]. They thought Gillen was fantastic.

Yeah, exactly. And, in fact--


Did you look at how they passed? Because Spencer took up that stick method.

Yeah-- ah, OK. Very interesting. I didn't know that. OK, good--

He took that to central Australia-- the stick method.

Ah, fascinating.

And he found it very useful-- the one [INAUDIBLE].


So-- yeah.

Fascinating. And, in fact, there's actually been a little bit of work-- we've been sort of discussing this with other-- Pat McConvell's been discussing this. Is there actually aboriginal forms of kinship markers, beyond just memory? And Peter Sutton has suggested yes, there are. There's methods by which people do kinship markers. So that's an interesting one.

The really annoying thing about Fison and Howitt meeting Spencer and Gillen is that they were in the same city and that meant there is no record. You don't have the letters. That's really frustrating.

There are a few.

There's a few, but it's not the same as the kind of extensive record between Howitt in Gippsland and Fison in Fiji, for example. But yes-- I mean, I haven't-- you'd know more about it than me. When I was writing the book, I stopped at 1880 and [INAUDIBLE].

We've got Gillen's letters to Spencer, because all letters of Spencer were burnt by Gillen's wife, because he was-- he didn't-- he was a bit-- well, Gillen's wife was really angry with Spencer, because Spencer went off and became a famous and well-off person, while poor old Gillen got sick and died, later on, and without any money, and left several children-- anyway.

So, anyway, but that correspondence we have with Gillen does talk about that visit to Melbourne [INAUDIBLE].

Yes, exactly. That's right. And, in fact, EB Tyler wrote to Fison, saying that Baldwin Spencer was coming, and could he please meet him and introduce him to Howitt. So there's these kinds of connections that, again, go against the center-periphery arugment, I would have thought. But you're absolutely right. But whether there's going to be a cache of letters, I'm not sure. Mary, you might be able to speak to that, in relation to the Spencer-Gillen-Fison-Howitt connection. So--

I can mention that [INAUDIBLE] potentially great sources [INAUDIBLE].

Thank you. That's great. Yep.

So. Maybe it's time to reiterate, I think, what you were already saying-- is that the center-periphery model is a 20th-century or even late-20th-century idea that--

Almost mid, actually. I think it came-- it was written-- um-- 1960s, I think. My PhD student, here, is more of an expert on it than I am. But I think it was developed by an Italian historian of science in the 1960s, or somebody like that.

Yeah, I think it was [INAUDIBLE].

  1. OK. Oh, that's right. Yep. That's right. And I think fairly quickly the Australian historian of science-- which actually used to be really significant in Melbourne universities-- history of science, and really, I think, it's there in Melbourne now and nowhere else anymore-- were very quickly on to the problems of this, I think. [INAUDIBLE] and those kinds of people were arguing against it, saying that this is a major problem in the way that we envisage science and think about science. It positions the centre as the important place, the theory-making place, and the periphery as those who were simply collecting [INAUDIBLE].

And I think it's really stopped-- not for people like Philip Batty and those who are working on Spencer and Gillen, for example. But, in terms of understanding them in international perspective, I think there's been a bit of a failing there. Though Spencer and Gillen were always acknowledged, internationally.

I think it's just a product of the old imperialist notion that everything happened back in England, and the great theorists and thinkers like Frazer [INAUDIBLE].


[INAUDIBLE]. But anyway, all the theory and the important stuff happened back there, and these provincials, you know, outside the empire, on the fringes, really were just collectors of information. But obviously-- which is quite extraordinary, because all these people worked very closely with aboriginal people--

That's right. Except for Fison.

--that, of course, had complete knowledge of kinship systems in particular. And that's where the action really happened. But a lot of that periphery-center thing's gone. Howard Morphy [INAUDIBLE].

Yes, exactly-- challenged it. That's right.


Yeah, exactly.

Especially Morphy, he really [INAUDIBLE] wrote several articles against it.

Helen, I've got a question. In terms of more mainstream genealogical work and methodologies, do you have any sense of how this early work might have informed-- I mean, of course, the quest here is to uncover kinship systems and understand [INAUDIBLE]. But do you have any sense of-- did it happen in tandem, in terms of genealogical research that Europeans did on their own families, like family history--

That's a really good question, because there's been an increasing interest in European genealogical or kinship-systems research that are delved into very, very-- put my toe in that water. And, in fact, you know, in 1880-- during the 1880s, Nietzsche wrote a famous book called On Genealogy which was a challenge to the origin obsession of Europeans, saying you're always looking for the first-- you're always looking for the beginning of society. You're-- you're mad. This is a kind of a cultish activity.

And he actually called it On Genealogies because he argued that, you know, this kind of obsession with this. And he really parodied this approach. So Nietzsche was interesting. Foucault picked up on him and changed "genealogies" to "archaeologies." So--


That's right. Exactly. So there was this-- yeah. It's been interesting, in that kind of respect. But, um-- yeah.

It might be just worth noting, generally, that, um-- this might seem like an obscure aspect of old dead white anthropologists, but--

Yeah, a lot of dead white men [INAUDIBLE].


But all the native title and, probably more specifically, the land-rights [INAUDIBLE] Northern Territory-- you had armies of anthropologists going around and getting all these genealogies for individuals who were claiming land. And [INAUDIBLE] extraordinary conflicts in hearings, where a person's descent became critical to who actually owned the land. So it really kind of came out of that obscure area-- very, very technical--



Yeah. No, absolutely, yeah, thanks. It could be described as "arcane." But yes, it's actually very important. And I think, too, what Fison and Howitt were able to do, as a result of their research, was argue back against Britain-- argue back against this notion that the essentially primitive savage-- in fact, what they were producing was material that indicated the great complexity of aboriginal society. And, in fact, the British eventually had to take that on board.

So, after Kamilaroi and Kurnai was published, people like Galton, Darwin's cousin, said, well, we have to account for the fact that aboriginal people, who we know to be very poor in their cognitive abilities, actually are able to understand these very complex systems that we can only understand with diagrams and, you know, endless expository passages. So this was a major problem for the British. It was a huge challenge to their expectation of the so-called failing-- of the failings of the savage.

And, in fact, I really do think that Fison and Howitt-- this is me on my soapbox, a bit, here. But they really did challenge British evolutionism-- the notion of the aboriginal people at the bottom of the social ladder. I think this was significant [INAUDIBLE]. And I think the British couldn't ignore it, despite the ways in which this has been represented later. It was empirically correct, it was significant, it was-- it was a really important challenge to British thinking, at the time.

And there still is that challenge for anthropology to have some diagram represent the complexities of that, as well.

Yes. Because everybody who works in that area-- you're just blown away by the capacity of people to carry around, in their minds, generations of names, named individuals, and be able to automatically say what they would call them--

That's right.

--sort of in retrospect-- sort of through time. I mean, it's really quite extraordinary.

Yeah. And it points, I think, too, to layers of unacknowledgement. First of all, the British struggled to acknowledge Fison and Howitt-- either at the time or later-- though they knew they were important. Then there's the failure to acknowledge the cultural expert-- the indigenous cultural expert, which-- there's no place on the schedule for the name of the person who assisted in filling it out. There is no place. And that-- if they're named at all, it's a male name. But there are hints in the letters that, in fact, it was the women who-- if you were trying to fill out a kinship schedule, and people were confused and debating about it, then they go back and ask the old women about the names.

So there's a failure to acknowledge the women, there's a failure to acknowledge the indigenous experts, and then there's a colonial failure-- a failure to acknowledge the colonial figures. So there's layers of unacknowledgement there.

One other thing it'd be worth pointing out is that these kinship systems weren't just, like, [INAUDIBLE] European setting, where you know who your father is and mother is. It also went right through the social structure of a group where it determined ownership of land, determined ceremonial activities, determined a whole range of other things, because it was an overlying structure. The kinship system was an overlying structure that determined all these other social operations. It wasn't just, as in the European case, a sort of simple thing.

[INAUDIBLE] all these names you have for, you know, your brother of your grandfather's sister, all that sort of thing, these were individual names we don't have in English.


We have "grandfather" or--


So there's no equivalence. Yeah.

--first, second, third cousin.

Cousins-- yeah. In most of the aboriginal groups, you have all these specific names, going right back into the-- extraordinary complexity. And a kid can tell you who someone is, I mean, even without thinking about it.

  1. Well, we might draw it to a close, now, and thank Helen very much for a very stimulating--


And now, for our next lecture, we'll be back into the theatre, here. So thank you to the Discovery Centre staff for allowing us to invade your space and colonise it, here, right back to the back. We've driven your business away, I think. They should have joined the audience.

Our lecture next month, on the 8th of June, is "The Invisible Farmer-- Securing the History of Australian Farming Women." And there's some flyers for that. This is another project that was also successful with an ARC Linkage grant in the round announced last week. So there's already been research. And, as we see with this one, building on research collaborations already to drive the information and the research further. It's a great opportunity, by getting ARC grants, to do this work.

So we'll hopefully see you all next month. Thank you.

Thank you.


That was great!

Yeah, great.

Oh, was it? It is a bit arcane-- all that stuff. But anyway-- [LAUGH] we get it. We like it.


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