- Anthony Redmond (Australian National University) email
- Mahnaz Alimardanian (La Trobe University; First Nations Legal and Research Services) email
This panel invites papers which explore the ways in which the dreams of indigenous and non-indigenous people about each other have shaped and continue to shape colonial and post-colonial encounters.
There has been a long anthropological tradition of recording the dreams of ethnographic subjects in the field, often accompanied by an exploration of various local modes of dream interpretation (see the work of Seligman, Devereux, Roheim, and Lauriston Sharp for example). This panel invites papers which specifically explore the ways in which the dreams of indigenous and non-indigenous people about each other have shaped and continue to shape colonial and post-colonial encounters. How do such dreams elicit and predispose the dreamer and their consociates to certain kinds of action? How does the ambiguity and ambivalent nature of dreams and related oneiric experiences make sudden shifts to a shared reality? How does the context of this encounter from dispossession to detention, from exploitation to expatriation or tourism influence this shared reality?
What kinds of interpretative schemata are applied to such dreams by the dreamers themselves and the recorders of such dreams? What kinds of wider social and cultural significance are attributed to both the dream and its interpretation? How do such dreams facilitate or hinder the ethnographic and/or social encounter? What part do such dreams play in revealing and/or constructing racial fantasies and realities between us?
The panel itself will be an interactive experience. We look forward to eliciting and examining dream material from the panel participants in the form of written or visual expressions (poetry/short story, drawing/painting, video/photograph and performance).
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Dream, affect and action: ambiguity and hesitation in social encounters from eye of the dream
In this paper, I analyse the ambiguity and affect associated with dreams and discuss according to what circumstance and factors, they may impact upon decisions in waking world. I look at examples of dreams and explore the path from personal doubts to a shared certitude inspiring actions.
Dreams are an imaginative source of knowledge and are cross culturally perceived as a way of communicating with the 'other' through dialogues, inspirational messages or warning sings. Although the dream is generally accepted as a 'seen' phenomenon, the experience of dreaming is based on affect. The feelings evoked during the process of dreaming and their aftermath hint at the meaning behind the dream. Furthermore, the interpretation of the dream is influenced by both the feelings of the dreamer as well as those of whom the dream is narrated.
In this paper I discuss examples of dreams experienced as a consequence of different forms of social encounters. I explore how the dreams and associated feelings may create meaning and influence acts in daily life and how they may assist coping with the reality of the waking world or its manipulation. I analyse how the ambiguity of the dream may develop into certainty of an interaction in a social encounter. One of the dreams that I describe is a specific oneiric experience of mine, directly associated with my ethnographic presence in the field in a small Aboriginal settlement in the far north coast of New South Wales, Australia. I explain how members of one of the local Aboriginal families interpreted my dream and responded to it in different ways. I also analyse dream experiences associated with a complex type of social encounter between men who sought asylum in Australia and were exiled to Papua New Guinea, and the local people of Manus Island.
Dreaming makes us human: incorporating our dreams into our fieldwork
Anthropology has a long history of treating dreams as valid objects of cross-cultural analysis. In this paper I will consider the relevance and challenges of anthropologists drawing on their own dreams as part of their fieldwork methodology.
Anthropology has a long history of treating dreams as valid objects of cross-cultural analysis. Almost universally, this research angle has been confined to the dreams of 'the other', the people who are being studied (Young 1992). In this paper I will consider the relevance and challenges of anthropologists drawing on their own dreams as part of their fieldwork methodology. On my first ever field trip in Australia, I had an unusual dream of a traditional Aboriginal ceremony. Sharing this dream 10 years later with an informant opened up a space for conversations that may not otherwise have happened. This and other vignettes of conversations about dreams will illustrate the connective power of this dimension to life. The paper will also consider the importance of developing clarity about the different paradigms through which to interpret dreams and explore the challenges anthropologists face in navigating both honouring their informants understandings and maintaining academic respectability.
Lost in translation? Dreaming, social process, and the artefacts of memory
Visual field-recording techniques have increasingly become subjects of anthropological reflection. Dreams may also provide rich visual record of fieldwork. This paper explores how dreams are narratively, interpretively and intersubjectively shaped, to reflect on fieldwork and its artefacts.
In recent times, visual field-recording techniques of various kinds (e.g., fieldnotes, drawing, film-making) have increasingly become subjects of anthropological attention and reflection. Ethnographer's dreams may also provide a rich visual record of fieldwork, one that also contains a great deal of information about the dialogic nature of fieldwork.
Writing about drawings in fieldwork notebooks, Taussig (2011:33) asks a rhetorical question. 'Is it fair', he says, that these are 'generally considered to be at best mere aids, steps towards a published text that obliterates all traces of them'; and he identifies an associated issue: 'what is lost in translation?' This account of a single dream in the fieldwork context and successive Bardi interpretations of it provides an illustration of what may be lost in translation: how these interactions unconsciously shaped the way I remembered the dream.
This paper considers dreams as a kind of visual memory artefact. One of my aims is to highlight the intersubjective, dialogic nature of participatory anthropological fieldwork, and the socially co-constituted aspects of memory and thus 'head-notes' that anthropologists draw on. Such reflections may be important in an era in which anthropologists' fieldnotes may be taken as stand-alone facts, or as unmediated records of an Indigenous culture.
Dreaming about each other: subobjectivity in the field of dreams
The psychoanalytic notion that diverse personages in dreams embody aspects of a relational self was also articulated by many of my Aboriginal interlocutors who commonly assumed strangers in dreams to be disguised familiars and/or ancestors of some kind.
A Western ontology of dreaming tends to construe it as a form of marked withdrawal from the world with its usual laws of time and space, sequential narratives, and underlying principles of identity. In this regard dreaming is seen to be an asocial or even socially alienating experience. This is further intensified by the fact that the dream's meaning is often opaque to the dreamer themselves and to their significant others outside of a process of carefully situating a dreamt imagery in relation to the dreamer's personal symbolic world and biography.
However, is also the case though that that very withdrawal from the well patrolled boundaries of the waking self may open up the dreamer to an expanded form of social experience and this is one quality of the dreaming experience in which a psychoanalytic view overlaps to some degree with some of the interpretations of my Kimberley Aboriginal family, friends and colleagues. I say this because the psychoanalytic notion that diverse personages in dreams embody aspects of a relational self was also articulated by many of my Aboriginal interlocutors who commonly assumed strangers in dreams to be disguised familiars and/or ancestors of some kind. Familiars, in both instances, are those with whom intercorporeal substances are shared to greater or lesser extents. In the dreams I discuss in this paper we can discern serial, shifting identifications with, as well as distancing from, the other personages encountered in dreams. Some of these involved close kin while others made reference to non-Aboriginal or non-human others.
Thresholds in the fold of dreams - Saibai Island, Torres Strait
An exploration of a dream of encounter between a Saibai Islander and myself. Using Deleuze's notion of the fold I suggest that dreams offer vantages to understand time, interiority and exteriority, surface and depth, particularly in regards to the ethical dimensions of friendship and love.
In 1992 a Saibai Islander man traumatically near death sought permission of me in a dream to cross a threshold to say goodbye to loved ones before dying. Or, at least, that is what I thought he was doing, as it it seemed that the boundary between awake and sleep was itself a threshold under suspension. The events and relationships that preceded and followed that dream suggest that dreams carry history, of a kind, and also extend themselves through an underdetermined future. Using Deleuze's notion of the fold I suggest that dreams offer interesting vantages to think of and experience time, interiority and exteriority, surface and depth, particularly in regards to the ethical dimensions of friendship and love. This paper is accompanied by a poetic delivery.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.