Accepted paper:

The system between us: the limits of trust in one native title research relationship

Author:

Carmen Cummings (Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will explore a few key interactions with my informant M. Situating our encounter in the wider context of applied anthropology, I will consider what she taught me about power, and reflect on impediments to honesty and trust in research within the native title system.

Paper long abstract:

M demanded I take her out to lunch. There, as we discussed a recent failed exchange in the context of native title research, she demanded, 'Why do you need to know?' Although we sometimes worked quite closely over a period of four years, my relationship with my informant, 'M', and our (joint?) project was a source of confusion. While other informants were willing to answer my many, sometimes very personal, questions, M was different. Acutely aware of her agency, she wielded silence, and refused my attempts to play the role of innocent researcher. She was strategic and perplexing, reserving the right to inconsistency. This paper will explore a few key interactions with M. Situating our encounter in the wider context of applied anthropology, I will consider what she taught me about power, and reflect on impediments to honesty and trust in research within the native title system.

panel Ethn03
Intimacy & information: dilemmas of power, trust and property in the informant encounter