It was a long wait, but finally we got all the info together and put John von Sturmer’s memorable performance together with Slawek Janicki up on the website. You can find all teh PDFs and Youtube links on the tab Performance – John von Sturmer.

Below the abstract:

‘And the meek’: some introductory remarks

I have prepared three texts for today. The first consists of various stray remarks, dicta and apocrypha and other things besides. It serves as a general prologue to the rest, a set of conditions, if you like. I can only announce its existence. If and when I put these texts on my website they will appear there. The second text takes loosely the form of what Browning called a ‘dramatic monologue’. This is perhaps more an ‘undramatic’ monologue.

I admire Browning’s flat ordinary diction, the intense psychological insight, the fact that it is in a profound sense self-presenting. If it gives itself it gives itself away internally. It is revelatory in that sense.

This main text (“Enter the Missionary’) has been ruthlessly slashed for the occasion, less hunter/gathering than ‘slash and burn’. I do not like this violation. The text itself takes as its central character Bill Mackenzie, the famous missionary who occupied and directed and gave shape to Aurukun for 42 years, leaving as I remember in 1967, just two years before I myself went there. His presence continued to hover. His ‘encounters’ with McConnel and Thomson were at one time well known. There was a view that these contretemps were responsible for a general embargo on anthropology and anthropologists thereafter. More apocrypha, possibly, for Mackenzie himself invited a film crew from what was later to become Film Australia to record dancing at Aurukun in 1962, and himself packed up the carvings made on that occasion that are held in various museums and national collections. Also, it was under his auspices that Ken Hale did fieldwork on Wik Mungkan and the Wik Way languages in the 1960s – principally Linngithig, with Sam Kerindun (‘the most garrulous blackfella in Australia’, according to Hale). Maybe linguists are considered less treacherous than anthropologists.

The text itself is based, at least in part, around two subsidiary texts: the Beatitudes, as from Matthew – the meek who will inherit the earth; the merciful; the pure of heart – ‘who will see God’; and the peacemakers – who will be named ‘children of God’. In my account Mackenzie stands against Meekness. In this he is a true Wik mensch. Ngangk thayan, which I’ll translate as ‘strong guts’ precisely to keep in mind its gutsiness, stands against ngangk waya, ‘weak spirit’. The latter need not be lacking will; to the contrary, it may be excessively wilful – but inadequately social; self-isolating and therefore unreliable. Yes, like the Wik I consider meekness the death of the world – pointing to the inadequacy of such frameworks as human rights, social justice, and the whole administrative order, what I call the world of the self-evident good and of administered being. This is domestication, not being; curtailment not … (You may need to help me; I need a term.) Being is a tough affair. Blackfellas may complain about ‘sit-down money’ but the culture of ‘meekness’ has people sitting down to die; hence my supplementary text intended to provide the basis of an art installation: PLEASE DISPOSE OF YOURSELF NEATLY BENEATH THE STONE (SLAB) PROVIDED.


The fantasy of full employment avoids the difficulty of contemplating a world beyond work. This is one of the challenges posed to and by Aboriginal societies. The culture that insists on work and full employment is a culture of resentment. Yet in fact full engagement in the life of the mission was one of the guarantees Mackenzie was able to offer.

The third text provides a postscript: a set of reflexions after the fact. It addresses among other things the issue of anthropology as a self-exempting practice.

I have asked Slawek Janicki to perform with me – not as a challenge to anthropological practice or to the academy but as a concession to my own current practice. It has its reasons even if I am not entirely sure what they are. Slawek and I are supported by the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council and we acknowledge that support here.

There is in fact a fourth text – a visual text. It’s rough and ready and reflects my own rudimentary skills. Treat it as a silent accompaniment. The compilation is based on two paintings, ‘12 Minutes of Infamy’ produced in 1997, and an untitled work dealing with the future of Aurukun, from around 2000 or maybe earlier. After Mackenzie left the mission acquired an aeroplane. Mostly it operated between the mission and Peret outstation, south of the river: poerith or wathnhiin, water rat. The plane was called the Bill Mac, after Mackenzie. It crashed on final descent into the new north-south runway, ploughing into the mangroves at ko’in. The pilot, Keith Seiler, was killed and the name placed under embargo. So Mackenzie himself became the nameless one: thaapity. The scene of a crashing or at least ominous plane nose-diving into the village precedes September 11 by some considerable time. Read it as the flight of the bureaucrat, if you wish.

I came across other drawings: a set devoted to the missionaries, produced in 2006 or thereabouts. There’s Sister Alison who ran the Clinic, and Joe Bartholomew who ran the sawmill. Yes, when I went there first Aurukun was still building its own houses.

Other things were photographed in recent days around Sydney. A world of hardness and the imprint denied; a world of shadow presences, fleeting, anonymous, empty.


John von Sturmer

26 March 2010


Acknowledgments: I gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Ute Eickelkamp, Sebastian Job, Katarina Ferro, Slawek Janicki, and Daniel Wallace.


SASS Volume 1 out now!

Since the publication of our online proceedings in 2010, we have decided this year to set the proceedings up as the first volume of the

Sydney Anthropology Symposium Series (SASS).

A new formate was necessary and we got an ISSN number. You can download the entire first volume: just  click on the cover picture.

If you safe the file, you can manoeuvre between the articles using the bookmark panel on the right of your pdf file (if not visible, click on the ‘tools’ button and select ‘ bookmarks’). We will be uploading individual files for each article shortly.

SASS Vol 1 cover

Hi all,

After the great success of the AEW Symposium and the following Anthropology Symposia, we decided to re-launch the online proceedings as Volume 1 in the newly created SYDNEY ANTHROPOLOGY SYMPOSIUM SERIES (SASS).

To fullfil the requirements of an academic serial, we need to make certain adaptations to the proceedings (no content changes!).

Therefore, we have to take them offline for the next couple of weeks and we inform you when the re-launch is completed.


Katarina Ferro

Dear All,

In addition to the information on the symposium, we can now offer you the published and revised papers of the symposium as online publication. Just click on the tab “Conference Proceedings”.

The papers and abstracts of the following contributors are available as pdf files:

Linda Connor

Sebastian Job

Emma Kowal

Gaynor Macdonald

Jonathan Marshall

Grant McCall

Robbie Peters

Thomas Reuter

Carla Stang

Erin Taylor

We hope the papers are of interest and enhance the discussion on this topic.

The Convenors

Dear All

First of all, we would like to thank all the paper presenters and participants of our symposium for their contributions, their engagement and lively discussions! We thoroughly enjoyed these two days. We will be in touch with you shortly about producing refereed conference proceedings from the symposium.

On the new photo & media page, you can get a glimpse of the symposium. Enjoy! You will also find two media pieces by Linda Connor, produced as part of the publicity for the symposium, or click on the titles below:

Climate change: a cultural crisis. Linda Connor (+ 360 comments as of 15th May) on: ABC Unleashed: http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2889755.htm
Don’t worry, be happy. Linda Connor in: Newcastle Herald. 26 April 2010. 69

Despite the name, the symposium was always meant to be a beginning not an ending. So please keep the website filed under your favourites. In the next couple of weeks we aim to rebuild and adapt this page into an online publication platform. Please let us know if you are interested in creating a blog, as there has been a lively email thread since the symposium that could well be the start of a blog forum.

We will keep you posted on the news and developments on this Home Page.
If you have any queries or suggestions, please contact Katarina.Ferro@sydney.edu.au.


Linda Connor, Sebastian Job, Katarina Ferro

Dear All,

The registrations for the Symposium closes today at 5pm!

In case you miss the deadline, you can register on Thursday between 1.30 and 2.30pm at the registration desk in the Holme Building (MacCullum and Cullen Rooms).

In order to speed things up on the day, we ask to download and fill out the registration form and bring a cheque. You will receive a tax receipt immediatly and a a tax invoice per mail later.

all the best

Katarina Ferro

Dear All,

The maintenance work has been finished and the university payment system is back online.

If you want to register with your credit card, please go to the registration page and follow the instructions.

We are getting close to the maximum limit for our venue. If you want to register for the symposium, there are only a few more places left!

Registration per registration form will close tomorrow! as it takes time to verify cheques.

We apologise for any resulting inconvenience. If you have any questions, please contact me per email:






As such please be aware that registration for the symposium by credit card is unavailable between

Friday 19 March 10.00pm and Monday 19 March 9.30am.

Registration with cheque is still available through the registration form for download.

We apologise for any inconvenience.

Recommended readings

For those who wish to explore the topic in a greater depth, we recommend the following readings. In preparation to the symposium a reading group has been established at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Sydney. All of these texts have been discussed during these sessions. But as this is just the beginning, the list is far from exhaustive. Here are our recommended readings:

  • 2009. Sea Level. San Roque, Craig in J Marshall (ed.), Depth Psychology, Disorder and Climate Change, Sydney: Jung Downunder Books
  • 1993. The Fundamentalist Self. Chpt 9 in The Protean Self. Human Resilience in an Age of Fragmentation. Lifton, Robert Jay. BasicBooks: 160-189.
  • 2001: Vita. Life in a zone of social abandonment. Biehl, João. In Social Text 68, Vol.19(3). Duke University Press,131-149
  • 1995. Sarcophagus: Chernobyl in Historical Light. Petryna, Adriana. In Cultural Anthropology Vol. 10(2), 196-220
  • 2006. The Nuclear Borderlands. The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico. Masco, Joseph. Princeton University Press. Chpt 1 pp1-5,Chpt 2 pp 43-99
  • “Flight from Death: The quest for immortality” (2003) documentary. written by Greg Bennick and Patrick Shen.
  • Soapbox Forum on “Anthropological Perspectives on Climate Change” (TAJA 2008, 19 April:1)

You can now download our poster and help spread the news about the symposium.

For a PDF, click here for Poster 1 and here for Poster 2