Finding spirit: Ontological monism in an Australian Aboriginal desert world today

Ute Eickelkamp


Anthropology’s philosophical interests of late invite reflection on subject-object relationships under duress. I suggest herein lies an opportunity to recover and engage through the prism of ethnography the heritage of modern philosophies of mind and nature. Taking tentative steps in that direction I venture to discern epistemic alignments between the self-world relationship as envisaged by the Anangu living at Pukatja in the eastern part of Australia’s Western Desert, Friedrich Schelling’s idea of a first nature, and Sigmund Freud’s notion of the life and death instincts. My discussion, focused on the emergent Anangu perspectives on nature, explores an ontological monism facing uncertainty. I approach its vicissitudes by examining the metaphoricity in the Indigenous figuring of the link between spirit and being, including inflections through Christianity that the Anangu are juxtaposing with the reality of Dreamings.


Central Australia, ontological monism, nature, Christianity, marginality, romantic philosophy, psychoanalysis, metaphor

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau7.1.019