A Place for Strangers

Towards a History of Australian Aboriginal Being

A Place for Strangers

Many of the elements ascribed to traditional Aboriginal beliefs and practices are the result of contact with external peoples--Melanesians and Indonesians, as well as Europeans. This controversial and provocative book is the first detailed and continent-wide study of the impact of outsiders on Australian Aboriginal worldviews. The author separates out a common core of religious belief that 1111 precontact spirituality of Australian Aborigines more concerned with place than with any philosophy of time or origins. A Place for Strangers investigates Aboriginal myth, ritual, cosmology and philosophy, and also examines social organization, subsistence patterns and cultural change. It will be of great interest to readers in anthropology, religious studies, comparative philosophy, Aboriginal studies and Australian history.


"Swain's book is a welcome academic contribution..." American Historical Review

"This is a major revisionary study of the effect cultural contact with Europeans and other nonnatives had on the Australian aboriginal religious world of meaning....an important book, which is bound to stir controversy. The author realizes this, even courts it, for he seeks nothing less than to reorient our understanding of Australian aboriginal religion by reintroducing history in an important way....This work is an exciting essay, an initial forray into a new sort of history of religions in Australia....No one...will leave this work without having been stimulated to reread the Australian 'data' and to reexamine many of the elements of received wisdom concerning this. This book deserves a wide readership." Gary L. Ebersole, Journal of Religion

"Swain has done a remarkable analysis in showing how different horizons exist and respond to external state power. In one sense, horizons must not be fused, since fusion will only come at the expense of Aboriginal peoples and Aboriginality. This book is not simply another account of the Australian Aborigine; it must be read as a a warning on how Gramscian political and cultural hegemony and domination operates within our own horizon." Aram Yengoyan, Ethno History


Choice Outstanding Academic Books 1995