56. Anthropologists and Anthropology. Law or lore?

Nikunu Yunupingu started the conversation about who is an anthropologist and what is anthropology? This soon raised other questions around law and lore. There’s a lot of confusion in the community about whether Yolŋu rom is law or lore.

The Yolŋu word for culture is Rom. Rom means law and habit. So when Yolŋu are thinking about the word culture they are looking at both habit (culture) and law. Some people find it difficult to make a connection here. However the English word law has at least three different meanings to it. One is law as in statutes. Another can be a personal law, practice or habit. It can also mean a law within a particular community which is not a statute. So, the closest word to the English word culture is Rom. However, anthropologists don’t come to study Yolngu law.

Richard talks through some of the similarities between the English word law and the Yolŋu Matha word Rom, which is part of the original Australian law but hardly ever studied by anthopologists, who tend to focus on ‘culture’. Nikunu asked who do anthropologist work for? It’s something Yolŋu have always thought about.

Over the years many anthropologists have come to study Yolŋu because they believe Yolŋu are one of the oldest cultures on earth.

(This program was recorded when we had issues with our online studio, so we apologise for the audio quality.)


There are 4 stories in this podcast. Please see time stamps below-

  • Anthropologists. Who are they and what is their authority – 00:000.00
  • Who do Anthropologists work for – 9:04.088
  • What is anthropology – 20:001.684
  • Where do Anthropologists get their authority – 28:24.984