By Adrian Franklin
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Additional resources for Animal Nation: The True Story of Animals and Australia
The European worldview, by contrast, stipulated that all individual elements of creation were separable and hierarchical, with boundaries separating the major orders, such as between people and animals. Such a way of thinking could not be ignored and to the minds of the earliest anthropologists it indicated that they had found precisely what they were looking for: an example of mankind at the very beginning of social evolution. The story we are about to embark on traces the attempts by anthropologists to understand the origins and meaning of the totemic beliefs of Australian Aborigines.
But it also had an enormous, though less widely appreciated, impact on how humans thought about each other. This field of speculation, often called Animals and Aborigines ( 49 ) social evolution, has had profound implications, not least on the development of Karl Marx’s ideas on revolution as well as the development and elaboration of ideas such as race, ‘the primitive’, civilisation, progress and modernity. Most of us have very little idea about this consequence of Darwin’s evolutionary theory because we think of it as a scientific idea and also because too few of us are taught anthropology, literally the study of humanity, where much of this truly fascinating story is locked away in dusty archives.
The simultaneous arrival of nationalism and the totemic uptake of native animals form the subjects of the next two chapters. They document the criss-crossing work of Australian cultural and scientific elites in the formation of what can only be described as a The Animal Enigma ( 25 ) mutually reinforcing symmetry between nationalism and ecology, a social movement that I call eco-nationalism. This giddy and exciting period of purification and boundary maintenance leads not to clarity and resolution but a deepening sense of doubt and contradiction felt by anthropologists and biologists alike.