Mountain beings : relationships with land in the Oberon district, 1800-1900

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Oberon is a local government area and small town on a plateau running west of the Great Dividing Range, in New South Wales. As it was on the first road to Bathurst, the north of the district was one of the earliest areas of inland New South Wales to be invaded/settled, from at least 1820. Despite this its early colonial history is obscure for reasons explored in this thesis, which traces the course of Aboriginal and European relationships with land throughout the nineteenth century. It suggests that these relationships reflect the manifold nature of land. The thesis employs the post-colonial genre of a conversation of consciousnesses, understanding conversation in the wider sense as interactions. The central tenet of the thesis challenges the contemporary academic understanding of land as culturally constructed. It argues that many Aboriginal relationships recognise the inherently spiritual nature of the land, rather than imposing meaning onto it. As some compensation for the fact that Aborigines rarely represent themselves in the sources of this period, it reads ‘against the grain’ accounts of conversations between Aborigines and colonists, particularly explorer journals. Since the rejection of social progressionism, no effective alternative approach to cross-cultural studies has emerged. Rather than understanding consciousness in the post-colonial model of the colonised and the coloniser, the thesis adopts the paradigm of structures of consciousness of phenomenologist Jean Gebser. This schema understands that the ways people experience phenomena are multiple, and universal. It recognises the losses as well as the gains in shifts of consciousness, enabling an approach that is wholistic and inclusive, uniting subject and object. Well-known material is thus re-read in the thesis, and complex interpretations of new and old material are made in its exploration of experiences of land. An insight into the nature of the land of the broader Oberon district across the nineteenth century accumulates over the course of the work.
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