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Director weekly highlights 24 Sept

Nicholas Evans, Outreach

Date: 24 September 2021

I’ve spoken before about how in these weekly updates the ‘first doors off the corridor’ in our news open onto many other doors and corridors beyond. One role of these introductions is to get you to walk through some of those doors and look beyond as this message lands in your crowded inbox.  

First, the Mander-Jones award-winning Archival Returns volume mentioned below. The ‘And Beyond’ part after ‘Central Australia’ is to be taken seriously, since the papers in their ‘ever-widening circles’ (to use the phrase of Advisory Committee member Clint Bracknell and writer Kim Scott, in their article) extend northwards to the Daly River (Rachel Nordlinger, Ian Green and Peter Hurst) and southwest to Wirlomin Noongar (Clint Bracknell and Kim Scott). Many, many from our community are authors of the various chapters: in addition to those mentioned already, the list includes Linda Barwick, Brenda Croft, Georgia Curran, Samantha Disbray, Elizabeth Marrkilyi Ellis, Jenny Green, Inge Kral, Barbara Martin, Pat McConvell, Gretel Macdonald, Felicity Meakins, Carmel O’Shannessy and Myf Turpin. The whole collection presents an incredibly detailed and inspiring series of portraits of the practicalities of how digital repatriation can work — including technologies of access; practicalities of local community involvement; the enrichment of record that can occur as communities engage with materials (what Ellis, et al. call the ‘the iterative cycle of documentation, archiving, and return’); and the ‘active cycle’ (O’Shannessy, et al. chapter) of mobilising archival materials into practices of bilingual education. It also reflects on three central questions at the confluence of morality and policy (Croft et al chapter): for whom are archives created and conserved; who is obliged to care for, and authorise, access to them; and to whom do they belong? A truly inspiring volume from the heart of the continent — congratulations to all involved in it. 

The archiving theme recurs in another award — this time the DASSH award to Nick Thieberger. Among the many elements of his archival work mentioned in the citation, his commitment to ceaseless technical ingenuity in the service of speech communities access gets a special mention: ‘providing access to source communities has been a hallmark of the partnerships for Thieberger’s research, including the use of Raspberry Pi computers using local Wifi networks’. The community-engaged archives that Nick has been building over decades continue to evolve and on behalf of CoEDL I’d like to express our pride in this recognition for his work. 

Another ‘door behind a door’ you can explore: if you click on the vaccine messaging to Utopia community, you will be treated to some beautifully fluent Alyawarr by Jenny Green. Overcoming vaccine hesitancy remains an urgent problem in many Indigenous communities, and in addition to getting the medical facts out there, the cred and the personal touch of being known to people can often make a difference. If you haven’t already done so please make sure to talk to community members you’re close to, listen to their concerns, and have a clear talk about the issues. Sometimes it may take a few calls, as I know from conversations with dear friends in the Top End. 

If you can still remember back to February 2019 — in those idyllic days before the bushfires and the pandemic — you may remember that CoEDL hosted a workshop, organised by Kim Sterelny, Steve Levinson and myself. All too often kinship gets treated from just one angle (e.g., semantics of kinship terms, or the biology of incest avoidance, or the ethology of kin recognition). But since kinship, in its centrality to social life, connects the biology of reproduction, the social networks of mutual support and antagonism, the formation of groups, and the cognitive and linguistic representation of family relationships, we thought it would help to understand the evolution of its intricacies if we could bring together a bunch of scholars from a range of disciplines, from primatology and archaeology to linguistics, anthropology and evolutionary theory. A selection of papers from that workshop has steadily been assembling itself, thanks to the opportunities that electronic publishing gives of putting together a special issue paper by paper. The full hand is now available in the journal Biological Theory — see below. It includes papers on primatology (Joan Silk), archaeology (Robert Layton), evolutionary theory (Ron Planer, Rob Wilson), anthropology (Ian Keen, Steve Levinson) and the linguistics and anthropology of kin terms (a large team: Sam Passmore, Wolfgang Barth, Kyla Quinn, Simon Greenhill, Fiona Jordan and myself). A big thanks to all contributors, and to Kimbo and Steve for their signal role in organising the workshop and getting this special issue to see the light of day. 

The upbeat employment market for linguists up for hitting the road continues, and you can see a wide range of jobs in Australia, Hong Kong, Portugal, Canada and the US, in both the academic and the community-linguist sectors. Some have deadlines that are rapidly approaching, so if you’re interested, check these out and move fast. 

Finally, with spring in the air, and the prospect of some spare time over summer, it’s heartening to see language courses for three Indigenous Australian languages available in the coming months — Kriol (at Ngukurr), Pitjantjatjara (in Adelaide) and Bininj Kunwok (online).  

Please have a good week everyone. Hang in there through these times when so many of us are locked down and missing face-to-face contact, and think what you can do to reach out to others in our community who may be under a lot of stress as the weeks and months of confinement stretch out. 


Nick Evans

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University