Aboriginal Kinship System And The Relationship Between Culture And Narrative

Understanding the Kinship System of Aboriginal Australians

1. The aboriginal Australians have a unique concept of building relations amongst themselves and their surrounding social environment. This is known as kinship. It is important to know about the aboriginal history to define and understand the concept of kinship. The concept of kinship system is significantly different from the way most Australians view their families and their relationships to each other (Malinowski, 2015). The aboriginal Torres Strait islander kinship is much more than a social hierarchy and it dates back to the sense of belonging and connection to the land by the aboriginal people. It is this connection to the country that defines identity and binds families together under one roof. In other words, kinship is a complex system in which the relationship between people and their roles is determined.

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The responsibilities and obligations in relation to each other along with ceremonial business and land are also determined under this system. In other words, one can have many fathers, mothers, uncles, aunties and brothers and sisters who are not related by blood, region or language under this system. According to this system (Montagu, 2013), the Western idea of family relations of an uncle or aunt will be considered as father or mother. The kids of these people will be considered brothers and sisters to each other. The complexity of kinship is not only about the titles. Kinship can influence the social protocols, how people care for children, business and the sharing of wealth.

The concept of the system of kinship is determined by the connection to the country and the surroundings by the aboriginal people. Not only this, but it is also a result of the sense of belonging of the aboriginal people to their land and surrounding nonhuman environment. Now, the nonhuman environment consists of all the natural components and elements available around the human population. The humans also form a part of the natural habitat and are considered while recognizing their kinship (Paradies, 2016). It is true that the aboriginal people understand and value the natural system as an evidence of the holy and sacred. This theory disagrees with that of human beings having a difference with the other aspects of nature. This theory implies that there is no basic difference between the humans and the other natural aspects because of the fact that they share in the spiritual dimensions of the universe.

There is a reason why the aboriginal people identify their kinship. The aboriginal people identify their kinship with the rocks, fish, water bodies and all the natural elements since they consider them as people too. According to the aboriginal beliefs (Lohoar, Butera & Kennedy, 2014), these elements are believed to possess consciousness and conscience, purpose and reason, along with spiritual characteristics. There is a significant belief in the Aboriginal community, which states that the integration of the population with the physical and spiritual methods of nature by humans, they enhance their chances of gaining a continued wellbeing. Furthermore, the aboriginal communities surround themselves with the natural ways and events that are crucial to their survival. On top of that, intricate attention is paid to the natural world when faced with the circumstances that require a decision.

The Interrelation between Culture and Narrative

2. In order to determine and justify the relationship between the concepts of culture and narrative, it is important to be aware of the concepts first. The concepts of culture and narrative belong to humanities and are important for the determination and implementation of values amongst the people of a society. The concept of culture is determined as the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, enclosing language, religion, food, music, arts and social habits. According to the Center for Advance Research on Language Acquisition (Dörnyei, 2014), the concepts of culture are the patterns of behaviors and interactions that are shared, related constructs and understanding that are learned by the use of socialization. Therefore, culture can be observed as the growth of the identity of a group, that are nurtured by social patterns unique to the group.

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Narrative is an important aspect in the study of social sciences today. Narrative in general, is defined as a sequence of events in a given frame of time. In other words, the term narrative involves a lot more than what is thought of it as the socio-scientific narrative research in the form of spoken stories, often personal in nature (Andrews, Squire & Tamboukou, 2013). The term narrative also expands to cover the phenomena beyond the texts visual, verbal or acted in nature. The sociologists and psychologists, who are working with both narratives personal in nature and of the media, tend to have assumptions that these narratives bear a strong resemblance to the structure and content of the lived, social world.

The matters of narrative and culture are interrelated to some extent since both of them constitute as elements of social sciences and this is why they are coexisting in nature. To answer the question of influence of narrative on social sciences (Hall, 2014), it is important to create a distinction between the understandings that are the products of the cultural turn in general, and those components that are specific to the study of narrative. The results of the distinction are recognition of the forms where the experience is contained, accounted for and represented that help in constituting the experience. This recognition replaces the idea that there are realities of nature, society and individuals that are fully independent of the languages and patterns of the culture through which they are represented.

The constructing effects of individual, symbolic words or silences or cross cultural differences are not examined by narrative work. All of these are required to be placed in a story. On the other hand, a narrative is an accumulating construction in itself. A narrative research offers lessons that are objective in nature in the construction of the social world (Jacobs, 2017). A chief resource of the perspective of constructionist has been its investigation of the patterns of representation, which emerge in each field of academics, and through which the different realities are constructed and such patterns are often obvious in the field of narrative. The relationship between culture and narrative is a complicated affair but can be simplified by the usage of appropriate tools of social sciences as both are important for the formation of a society.

Differences between Aboriginal and Western Culture

3. The Aboriginal culture is very much different from that of the Western culture and this is the reason why there have been evidences of cultural differences present between both the cultures. The Western settlers in the country were always proved more powerful than the aboriginal populations and have been practicing discrimination against the native residents of the land of Australia (Smith, 2013). This in turn resulted in the never ending cold war between both the Aboriginal and western cultures. However, the situations have begun to change with the aboriginal children being educated adequately in Australia. Even though they are being educated, the education that is being imparted onto them is western and this somehow clashes with that of the education of the aborigines.

There are some basic differences between the Aboriginal and the Western culture. Firstly, the aboriginal people believe in spiritually and their society is also spiritually oriented. The entire system is based on belief and mysticism. Whereas on the other hand, the western society is scientific in nature and believes in evidences and opposes mysticism. Secondly, the aboriginal society believes in the state of relatedness of the components (Tully, 2017). The western society on the other hand, is compartmentalized in nature and identity is dependent on jobs and materialistic possession. The authority in the Aboriginal society is based on age, cultural knowledge and relationship with the people. Whereas, the systems of authority is large scale in nature and is given through roles and bureaucracy. It is through this role that the relationship is built.

It is true that knowledge and education is being imparted in the Aboriginal children, but this education does not teach the aboriginal values but the western knowledge and values. The aboriginal children are being taught the western values and the people from the west have always discarded and disregarded the aboriginal culture by calling it unscientific and primitive (Altman, 2018). The aborigines on the other hand have gone reluctant on the fact of sending their children to western schools since they feel that their culture is being threatened by the westerners. Education is no doubt a method of empowerment and is required for the development of any community. On the other hand, the way the westerners treated the culture of the aboriginals was also not appropriate. The lack of acknowledgement of the culture of the aboriginal people developed a sense of alienation amongst them.

Impact of Western Education on Aboriginals

The promotion of western education amongst the aboriginal population also demotivated them and developed a sense of alienation from the society along with a sense of discrimination. The impact of western knowledge on the aborigines was rather negative than positive because that developed a clash between the two different ideologies of the two cultures (Leithwood, 2013). This needs to change. Moreover, the format of teaching the aboriginal children also need to be enhanced. The learning content is also required to be made more engaging. In addition, they are required to be empowered, supported and engaged to enhance their own learning capacity.

4. This unit has been utterly useful to me in terms of helping me understand the differences and similarities of the way the aboriginal Australians and the rest of the Westerners, which in turn includes me; view the world. The unit along with all the modules have helped me in understanding how both the societies of the Aborigines and Westerners work (Krakouer, Wise & Connolly, 2018). I have also gained much knowledge about the philosophies of both the societies and this further has helped me gain an understanding about the differences in the ideologies of the Aboriginal Australians and Westerners. The different systems that the Aboriginal people follow in their society and life are truly phenomenal and aesthetic. 

The differences in the way the communities in the worlds view the world entirely depend on the situations like the values and philosophies and way of life of each community and is a great matter of study ion the filled of social sciences. I have been deeply moved when I learned about the different philosophies of the indigenous people. This unit has helped me in gaining a better and fuller understanding of the world view of my own community and that of the Aboriginal Australian communities (Ravenscroft, 2016). I would like to admit, it is the philosophical ideas of the indigenous people that goes on to give an understanding of the way the people think. This is due to the fact that philosophy and psychology are correlated to each other to the extent that philosophies often influence and have an impact on the people of a community. In other words, philosophy is the base of formation of ideologies. Since philosophy and ideology are interrelated, it would be safe to state that the indigenous philosophies form the base of the aboriginal ideologies.

The first idea that the aboriginal people believe in is that indigenous knowledge is relevant. furthermore, it is an ethical, intelligent, useful and an effective way of knowing about the world. The indigenous way of gaining knowledge is from the nature and the natural things. They believe in the fact that humans are an element of the environment and humans and the natural components are related to each other (Strang & Braithwaite, 2017). In this context, the Western philosophers also believed in this until the development of sciences when they started to question each of the phenomenon. Speaking from the point of view of my community, I belong to the group of people who follow the Western customs and ideologies. This is why I believe in the scientific way of explaining phenomena rather than believing in the spiritual aspects.

According to the aboriginal customs and ethics of the community (Castellano, 2014), it is the elder generation of the aboriginal population who keep the spirituality and culture close to each other. The elders choose and decide upon the knowledge that will be shared and also the one that will not be. It is believed that the aboriginal spirituality is the basis for their lifestyle, education of the indigenous people and  cultural competency of them. On the other hand, my culture or the Western culture promotes the idea of questioning and determination of the phenomena using the help of science and scientific explanations (Nee, 2017). The Western view of the world is different from that of the aboriginals. The people from the west do not believe in spirituality and mysticism and demand explanations of everything using scientific developments.

The concept of the relation between families is also different from the Western concept in the aboriginal community. The aboriginal people have the concept of kinship in their system. According to this system (Loos, 2017), all the families in the community who are not related by birth, or even region and language; are related to each other. This is a unique concept that is followed by the aborigines. This system is the reason why the aboriginal population have so many mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters. The concept of kinship in the aboriginal community states that all the humans from their race are related to the environment, which is definitely an act of spirituality. It is due to this reason that the humans are also interrelated to each other. Therefore, according to this system, the uncles and aunts of a family would be fathers and mothers to the offspring and the children of these people will be direct siblings and not cousins. Even though they will be cousins technically, but the kinship system does not allow them to be called or treated so. This in turn affects the reason for being of the people from the community.

The kinship system teaches the act of sharing the land, property and other materialistic components of the environment with the other people because of the fact that the people are interrelated with each other (Leech & Rayson, 2014). The concept of kinship is nonexistent in my community because our ideologies vary from that of the aboriginal population. Our or the western ideology of a family is different and is being followed all across the world by majority of the communities. According to our culture, there are uncles and aunts and not multiple people being addressed as mothers and fathers.

The process of learning and gaining knowledge is also different in both of our communities. The aboriginal community believes in the gaining of knowledge through interactions that are open, positive and ethical in nature. The west on the other hand does not practice such method of learning. According to my culture (Tseng & Hsu, 2018), learning and knowledge comes from the books and documents written and prepared by the scholars. The west believes in the knowledge present in the books and this is how they vary from the aboriginal community. There might be differences in the ideologies and philosophies of the indigenous and western communities but I believe in the fact that all the differences can be mended and all of us can respect the culture and customs of each other and help towards building a sustainable society.


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