Fear and wonder out bush: engaging a critical anthropological perspective on indigenous alterity

Eve Vincent*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When an Aboriginal family group called 'Aunty Joan Mob' travel 'out bush', they make contact with awe- and fear-inspiring country. In attempting to make sense of their wonder, I would be ill-served to rely too heavily on a kind of culturalism, which might attribute the source of this wonder to ontological precepts long shared by these (and other) Aboriginal people. Instead I seek to engage a 'critical' anthropological perspective in arguing that a range of factors are all crucial to understanding why Aunty Joan Mob engage in "wonder discourse", through which they consider the primordial Aboriginal past and the alterity embodied by their own ancestors. I outline the role of settler colonial history, national political developments and the liberal promise of the recognition of Indigenous cultural difference, bitter local intra-Aboriginal conflicts, and the subordination of Aboriginal people within rural Australia's racial schema. Taken together, these factors help explain that the bush today acts as a repository for latent powers, which are both marveled at and feared. Out bush Aboriginal people seek to escape the white gaze: this is a place where Aboriginal's ability to survive, independent of white foodstuffs, is conjured up and relished. Wonder attends to Aunty Joan Mob's experience of being in the bush, which becomes, albeit temporarily, a politically transformative imaginary space.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-167
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Religious and Political Practice
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Wonder
  • ontology
  • Indigenous
  • alterity
  • settler colonialism


Dive into the research topics of 'Fear and wonder out bush: engaging a critical anthropological perspective on indigenous alterity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this