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ISSN: 0974-892X


Jul '20 & Jan '21



Children of Lesser God - Indigenous Aboriginal Culture

Dr. Ancy Elezabath John, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Christian College, Chengannur, Kerala


Marginalisation is the treatment of a person, group, or concept as insignificant or peripheral. Marginalized groups exist nearly everywhere. They are people who, for whatever reason, are denied involvement in mainstream economic, political, cultural and social activities. Targeting or ignoring one group can ultimately affect the whole society. Synonym terms -marginality, disempowerment, exclusion, alienation, and subversion, subaltern.

The term "marginality" was first introduced by Robert Park in 1928. Park’s "marginal man" is "on the margin of two cultures and two societies which never completely [interpenetrate and fuse]" (Park 1928: 892, Brackets in original quote). Park described the marginal man as one with "spiritual instability, intensified self-consciousness, restlessness, and malaise" (893).Until Bennett’s work in 1993, the experience of cultural marginals was most commonly thought to be one of pessimism, confusion, and isolation (McCaig 2002). Many writers used words such as "severe distress," "inferiority," "paralysis," "tension," and the "marginal syndrome" (McCaig 2002: 9-10).
Marginalization is a process that includes many external forces. All over the world, there are many individuals and groups that are marginalized on the basis of the social, cultural, ethnic, economic, caste, creed, class and other factors. Marginalization comprises those processes by which individuals and groups are ignored or relegated to the sidelines of political debate, social negotiation, and economic bargaining—and kept there. ... Neoclassical economists trace marginalization to individual character flaws or to cultural resistance to individualism. Being "marginalized" means being on the margin, far from everybody else, having the feeling that you don't belong anywhere. These people usually feel lonely, rejected, as if they had nobody but themselves in the world.
Social exclusion, marginalization or social marginalisation is the social disadvantage and relegation to the fringes of society. It is a term used widely in Europe and was first used in France. It is used across disciplines including education, sociology, psychology, politics and economics. Residential schools were used to remove the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures from indigenous children, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture. Marginalization pertaining to acculturation is defined as the rejection of one's culture of origin.

In order to overcome Marginalization from Within, Expanding and Experiencing Co-cultural Theory serves as an analytical framework that looks at culture as an uneven site of communicative relations. One of its central assumptions is that societies are structured in hierarchical terms. This creates a dominant position for certain cultural groups while other groups are marginalized. Here lies the possibility of applying co-cultural theory to co-cultural groups that are marginalized in a larger co-cultural context.  A phenomenological approach is one way that encourages dispelling Stereotypes, Perform Competence, which leads to redefining  the environments where once marginalized racial and gendered identities receive meaningful reflections on lived experience.

There has been an increase in the population of multiple cultural groups. Therefore, much research has been conducted in response to this cultural expansion, as investigators strive to learn more about cultural identity and intercultural adaptation .Historically, it was believed that a healthy sense of self is achieved when one ascribes to a specific ethnicity and culture (Kim 1996). Yet, in a culturally diversified world, individuals may develop allegiances to multiple cultures simultaneously (Schaetti 2000). Furthermore, an individual may exist in cultural marginality, described by one writer as "feelings of ‘passive betweenness’ between two different cultures…and [they] do not perceive themselves as centrally belonging to either one" (Choi 2001: 193).
Janet Bennett conceptualized the term cultural marginality as encompassing two outcomes: encapsulated marginality and constructive marginality (Bennett 1993). Encapsulated marginality, according to Bennett’s framework, is indicative of a loneliness, alienation, self-segregation, and internal distress. She identifies "the degree of dissimilarity between internalized cultures as a factor in the intensity of disintegration for the encapsulated marginal" (Bennett 1993: 114). Thus, the more vastly different two cultures are from one another, the more prone an individual is to "internal culture shock" (112).Also in relation to an identity crisis in terms of "self-shock" or pressure between the individual’s own internal sense of self, and the environment around him (Kim 1996: 355).

The internal struggles within the encapsulated marginal could be escalated by the opposing views between the two cultural groups. At times, the original culture may accuse the individual of rejecting his or her roots or beliefs of origin, and conforming to the mainstream (McCaig 2002). At the same time, the second culture may be pressuring the individual to abide by their conception of norms and values, in order to be accepted into their group (McCaig 2002). This state of cultural conflict may leave the encapsulated marginal to feel culturally homeless, without a peer group to provide a sense of belonging, resulting in what Bennett termed "terminal uniqueness." The conflicting pressures of establishing one’s identity, belief system, and goals remain a constrained effort to the encapsulated marginal and coincide with high levels of distress (McCaig 2002).

The second type of marginality, according to Bennett, is a person who takes an active role in consciously constructing his or her identity (Bennett 1993). This type of individual, termed the constructive marginal, is said to move or shift effortlessly between cultural identities and creates an "integrated multicultural existence" (McCaig 2000: 13).

The very question of whom/ what is called or termed as Indigene is the basic area to be discussed in this contested area. A good dictionary tells us that the word indigene means “native” and the word had its origin from the Latin word “Indigenous” meaning born or produced naturally in a land or region, or inborn, innate and native. If we go in for the synonymous and conceptual meanings for the word in English we find the terms like Aborigines, Native peoples, First nations, Primitive tribes, Janajatis, Adivasis, Red Indians and so on. However the word Indigenous invariably gives in the meaning in a historical sense as the term given for the first and original inhabitants of a place or county. They have formed a unique identity within themselves cultivating local traditions, knowledge’s, customs and traditions not intelligible rather inaccessible to the outsiders.

No one is able to substantiate supreme power in one’s historical knowledge as of only some can trace back their history till 16 th century, further back no one is able to tell precisely what happened during or even after the Great Migration of the peoples. And therefore the Aborigines of Indigenous world remained and still remains a lot camouflaged under its mythical origin, and the phrase used is ‘time immemorial’. This calls in a need to balance and counteract the disruptions and discontinuities for a set of people for natural habitat accompanying the process of modernization.

For the vast majority of indigenous peoples, existing legal arrangements concerning their heritage remain under the control and power of the state rather than the distinct Indigenous nations that own, enact and assert these heritages.  United Nations Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage identifies and critiques the power imbalances generated by international and state-defined legislation and Convention.  This reveals a discursive relationship between global trends of new environmental ethics, ecophilosophy and ecofeminism, and international interest in sustainable practices and ideologies as embodied in Indigenous or alternative knowledge systems. Indigenous knowledge systems are to be defined, perceived and safeguarded into the future.
Cultural memory and local knowledge of the landscape is seen as an integral part of human/environment interactions that enhance social capacity to adjust and respond to change. Recent research has begun to focus on nuanced, holistic approaches that place emphasis equally on environmental and social factors. Cultural memory and other social processes inform how people interact with their environment and respond to environmental variability. Cultural memory can be thought of as a mechanism that influences adaptive responses. Australian writer Alexis Wright’s 2006 novel Carpentaria and Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance (2010) questions Australia’s national identity, challenging the economic project – capitalism – upon which the nation is predicated, by positing the particularity and agency of place. Both novels are notable for their generic hybridity, their foregrounding of place and their hopefulness despite their traumatic subject matter, moving beyond the form of western literary realism and postcolonial despair.

Transition culture is only beginning to receive academic attention. Transition culture is done within a rural studies frame, highlighting the significance of rurality to transition culture and reflecting on the nature of its politics. It connects activists' accounts and descriptions of Transition with debates about the changing meanings of rurality, the increasingly co-constituted relationship between rural and urban spaces and with the changing forms of political action which have been identified as radical and as post-political. Transition culture can be seen as a convergence of rural-urban values and practices.

Aboriginal literature is often seen as minority literature. Literature from margins or fringes within one’s own nation irrespective of the place whether India, Australia, Canada or Africa.  Narrativising Indigenous cultural production needs to understand the specific multiple world view of the writer to move into a world of myths, fantasies, and dreams and prophesy. It involves the writer to enter into the world of memory.
The central theme of Indigenous literary history rounds around the theme of land which forms the primary spiritual and political concerns of Indigenous communities. Indigenous literature is being continuously channelized through modern methods like the use of drawing. People of different Indigenous groups have started their own blogs, art corners and innovative methods of expressions which allow them to have a liberal mode for their freedom of expression. All this helps the Indigenous communities to come closer in their sport.

Indigenous communities have been historically distanced from the wider external society not just because they lived in isolation from the main stream society, but also because of a unique identity they possessed on their specific and distinctive language, cultures and social system. Indigenous people want to reconstruct the history and reinterpret what the colonizer has set for him. They follow a rationality tutored by their own life conditions and though they wish to coexist with the mainstream, they resist against the injustice meted out towards them from the top. Their writings points on how oppressed and displaced they were and make critical judgments against it and fight and resist against the oppressive system followed with the historical perspective of being an Indigene.

Writings of Indigenous people therefore focus on collective violence, varied oppression, embedded with power relations and ideologies within the complex yet interdependent social, political, economic and legal structures. The tattoos on Indigenous hand earlier symbolized as a symbol of social inferiority, has turned out to create significance and unique identity and that forms their political strength and they create a political space without eroding their cultures and identities. The Indigenous had an inseparable relationship with the universe which the invaders could not comprehend.

As ‘Thoreau’ puts ‘ I went into the Woods” because I wish to live deliberately to face only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not when I die, discover that I had not lived.” The beauty of Indigenous life and culture understands in exactly the same principle of devoting themselves as part of nature and to understand naïve idealism and not to go beyond crude materialism. These stories record their successes and failures and provide us greater lesson on how life should be lived and how our way of life should be organized. The Indigenous culture accepts only those features which it needs for growth.

Indigenous peoples are developing a culturally appropriate and collaborative approach to cross-cultural research. A number of methodological and conceptual issues arise in cross-cultural collaborative research, including the importance of adopting a culturally appropriate research methodology, the role of the researcher, participation in the research process, rights to "traditional" indigenous knowledge, and, indeed, the nature of research-based knowledge. Transformative Fictions: Postcolonial Encounters in Australian Texts
Within postcolonial theory over the last decade, a discursive shift has been evident in which terms such as "transculturation," "hybridity," and "transformativity" have attained pre-eminence over discourses of struggle, oppression, victimisation, and dispossession. Mary Louise Pratt's Imperial Eyes (1992) was an influential text in this shift and argued that rather than seeing colonization in terms of adversarial confrontation, the history of colonized countries evidences a two-way relationship involving a mutual transformation of colonized and colonizers

Many contemporary Australian books for children present Aboriginalist ideologies in their representations of indigenous culture.  They imagine a culture where engagement between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples is based on the recognition and valuing of difference and on relations of mutuality and reciprocity. Kate Grenville’s The Secret River, Phillip Gwynne's Nukkin Ya (2000), Melissa Lucashenko's Killing Darcy (1998), and Meme McDonald and Boori Pryor's Njunjul the Sun (2002), trace many of the tensions that rouse  through interactions between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal characters. These novels advocate transformative politics advocating new modes of engagement between indigenous and non-indigenous cultures.

Indigenous culture shared rituals and festivals, shared economic social customs, myths, fables and history. Oral folk tales and songs and expressions expressed their joys, pain, wonder and mystery about their life and world of nature. Many of the folk tales were meant to invoke the varied forces of nature imagined by them as God and Goddesses. This was connected with each and every element of their daily practices like agricultural operation, hunting and trade that the village people carried on.  Indigenous spirituality evokes a sense of integration in the life of them and therefore their spirituality and life cannot be seen different or separate but mutually enhancing each other. Their main motive therefore forms to be being the best human in every possible manner they could. As a result Indigenous culture/ folk culture got correlated to tribal art form and classical got to be called as urban and therefore sophisticated form.

The Indigenous writers tend to bring the whole indigenous communities together and to bring them as a single whole. The Indigenous people all around the world are the real owners of the land and invariably they belong to the earth and not that the earth belongs to them. Herein lies  the great understanding and acceptance of Indigenous culture as a unique one. Indigenous people all around the world have certain characteristics in common to share with each other whether they are Adivasis of Kerala or Janajatis- the Indigenous people of India, Aborigines of Australia, Maori in New Zealand, First Nations of Canada.

As students of literature it is worthwhile to learn and understand and reflect upon the Indigenous people from various continents. With such an intension a conference was organized one of its first kind in Chotro, First global conference for literary scholars and social scientists involved with the study and understanding of Indigenous communities in 2008. This made to think Indigenous issue internationally about tribal culture, history, language and literature of Indigenous people from all over the world.

Even in the 21 st century Indigenous people remain socio-economically, culturally and politically at the margins of the society. Cultural dispossession, cultural fragmentation and marginalization have made women doubly marginalized. The historical context of colonialism, the enduring dynamics of discrimination and marginalization continue to distort relations, families and communities. Indigenous people must be considered as an empowering mode of existence. Contemporary Indigenous people are able to create a wave along with ‘major literatures’ and thus helps the readers to understand and examine the real picture of Indigenous people being different from first world previews. As a result a handful of Indigenous works are coming up from diverse cultural Indigenous formations and communities which give intellectual directions to the people from all streams The contemporary generation is showing a sense of reconciliation and a remarkable readiness to accept and reconsider Indigenous population without the burden of colonial guilt. They are ready to visit, know, understand and assist Indigenous communities in rebuilding their lives.

Few studies have explored cultural marginality and actual experiences of a marginalized group. Researching the personal experiences the literature on intercultural identity has provided valuable and rich data to issues of self-esteem, perceived support in the family, peer, community context, and the complex nature of the layers of marginality. The potential issues of living in cultural marginality, the complexities of cultural belongingness, healthy and self-destructive aspects of adaptation, and feelings of terminal uniqueness will be useful for the cross-cultural adaptation with applications on education, therapy, psycho-educational seminars, and future research. The marginal experiences of a mixed racial background were excluded. Therefore, utilizing a population of subjects from a variety of racial backgrounds would yield invaluable data that could add to what is currently known about the different layers of marginality. Information related to cultural belongingness and adaptability and a need for future research in establishing data that supports cultural marginals is essential.



Works Cited

Bennett, J.M., Cultural marginality: Identity issues in intercultural training. In R. Paige (Ed.) Education for the intercultural experience. Yarmouth: Intercultural Press. 1993

Choi, H.,Cultural marginality: A concept analysis with implications for immigrant adolescents. Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing, 24, 193-206. 2001

Kim, Y.Y., Identity Development: From cultural to intercultural. Interaction & Identity, 5, 347-369. 1996

McCaig, N., From Simmel’s stranger to the Krishna culture kid: Cultural marginality and the children of Hare Krishna devotees, unpublished research paper. 2002

Park, R.E., Human Migration and the marginal man. American Journal of Sociology, 33, 6. 1928

Schaetti, B., Global nomad identity development: A review of the literature. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The Graduate College of the Union Institute, Ann Arbor, MI., 2000