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Accepted Paper:

Mistrust at the foundations: Yapa/Kardiya relations at Yuendumu, central Australia  
Yasmine Musharbash (Australian National University)

Paper short abstract:

Through a three-pronged approach of ethnographic analysis, historical contextualisation and linguistic conceptualisation, I explore mistrust flaring up in contemporary interactions of Warlpiri people with non-Indigenous persons as a culturally-specific element of Warlpiri ways of being in the world.

Paper long abstract:

Based on fieldwork at Yuendumu, a Warlpiri settlement in central Australia, I propose that mistrust is a core component of the ways in which Yapa (as Warlpiri-speakers call themselves) relate to Kardiya (vernacular term for non-Indigenous persons). While often submerged or suppressed in contemporary Yapa-Kardiya relations, mistrust flashes into existence in telling moments. In this paper, I examine two such instances in ethnographic detail. Mistrust, I show, only becomes legible if understood as grounded in practice. I augment the ethnographic exploration with two further frames. Firstly, Warlpiri mistrust must, I put forward, be contextualized historically, through analysis of the specific tenor of Warlpiri people's first contact, frontier and early settlement experiences, and the effect they have had on ensuing generations, including how they have been folded into childhood socialisation. Secondly, I examine mistrust in relation to conceptual arrangements of what it means to be (or not to be) human in Warlpiri. As a language, Warlpiri conceptually separates Yapa and Kardiya, locating the former on a spectrum ranging from 'most human' to 'without humanity' (encompassing close relatives, kin, others, strangers, enemies and monsters, among others, but poignantly, not Kardiya). The latter are in a category of their own, outside of humanity, so to speak. Through this three-pronged approach I show how mistrust is culturally-specific in its tenor, expression, and orientation, instrumental to ways of being in the world, and much more than a simple flipside of trust.

Panel P061
The anthropology of mistrust
  Session 1