Appropriating anthropology?: Document and Rhetoric

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The use of Copyright Registers by photographers and other artists provides a useful barometer of cultural assumptions over the period from the 1870s to the 1950s. This paper will explore images that both appropriate and subvert anthropological claims about Aboriginality. It is possible to demonstrate that whilst the field appears to require an engagement with anthropologically-derived visual constructions of 'authenticity' and 'Aboriginality', commercial photographers used this anchoring as a base from which to project diverse and contested claims of Aboriginality. I will argue, however, that commercial photographers did not so much diminish or contaminate an anthropological paradigm as extend a rhetorical activity of inventing and reinventing authenticity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-113
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Material Culture
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Aborigines
  • Anthropology
  • Australian Copyright Registers
  • Photography

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