Anthropology Pure and Profane: The Politics of Applied Research in Aboriginal Australia

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The debates between applied and pure anthropologists’ demonstrate the difficulties which those engaged in native title litigations encounter. Debates to whether anthropologists’ engaged in native title hearings are morally and intellectually adequate are discussed in contemporary anthropology. These debates between anthropologists’ cause various ambiguities to the role and ability of those practicing engaged anthropology. David Trigger’s article, ‘Anthropology Pure and Profane: The Politics of Applied Research in Aboriginal Australia’, outlines some criticisms engaged anthropologists’ face and attempts to disprove them. Trigger’s points in this article caused debates amongst applied and pure anthropologists’ revealing many
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Trigger (2011, p.234) outlines that anthropologists’ belonging to the academy criticise applied anthropologists’ with a ‘set of moralistic charges’. In particular Trigger (2011, p.236) refers to Gillian Cowlishaw’s preference of past anthropology when anthropologists’ avoided engagement with the government. As Cowlishaw in Trigger (2011, p.237) believes remaining unengaged allows for a critical enquiry and an open mind. Cowlishaw in Trigger (2011, p.237) suggests that critiques of the state cannot be carried out, thus the applied anthropologist is completing ‘morally bad work’. Bruce Kapferer in Trigger (2011, p.237) is shown to believe that engaged anthropology is ‘entangled’ within the state and corporate groups. Thus with Cowlishaw’s standards, engaged anthropologists’ are completing morally bad work. Kapferer in Trigger (2011, p.237) goes further to suggest that applied anthropology causes the suppression of Aborigines. As land claims are fulfilling ‘…the final interests of the state and corporation power’ (Cowlishaw in Trigger 2011, p.237). This belief places applied anthropologists’ in a difficult position, however, this opinion is not held by all in the discipline.
The above moral critique on applied anthropology is not agreed to by all in the field of anthropology. Academics may see engaged anthropologists’ connection to the state as a stray from critique; thus a shift to

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