Specialisation: Psychological Anthropology, Aboriginal Australian Ethnography
Like many anthropologists, much of what I do is motivated by a desire to contribute to the wellbeing of humankind. The ASSA has observed that social science findings have considerable power to do just this. This may often be achieved, however, only through a slow diffusion of our ideas into the general population.
As a psychological anthropologist, I have found that the inclusion of material from evolutionary ecology and psychology, reproductive biology, epidemiology, and cognitive and neuro sciences is a productive way of interpreting the activities, beliefs and experiences of Aboriginal Australians. My books, papers, seminars and lectures have enabled students and colleagues to discover that the use of evolutionary theory and biological findings in ethnographic interpretation is not inherently racist and sexist and that the inclusion of cognitive and neuro science does not preclude detailed sociocultural descriptions. It is of note that my work has been well received by Aboriginal students and colleagues who find it both persuasive and useful. My latest book, An Ethnography of Stress, an outcome of an ARC Discovery grant, has been set either as required or optional reading in several anthropology units that I know of. It has also been assigned in Public Health Anthropology at the Menzies School of Health Research and in a unit on the social determinants of health in the School of Health and Society at the University of Wollongong. Outside of academia, non-Indigenous service providers, such as remote community teachers and nurses, have mentioned the usefulness of my writings, especially of the reports I have written for the people of Numbulwar, a community I have been working in since 1977. Another of my books, Fighting Women, (1994), addresses the topic of violence and other forms of aggression in this community. As is the case with many of my publications, it is a work that places acts, often sensationalized by mainstream media, in a context that renders them intelligible, if not acceptable, to outsiders. It also identifies challenges to addressing domestic violence in the West. It remains the most comprehensive study of the role of aggression in an Australian Aboriginal community, particularly as understood and negotiated by women. It informed a proposal used to secure a NHMRC Grant for an ongoing study of women prisoner’s violence. and contributed to the formation of an international partnership between Australian and North American researchers. Eventually, perhaps, what I have to say about aggression, and the importance of understanding its sociocultural context, not only in Aboriginal Australia but in Western settings as well, may come to inform programs that address domestic violence. I am encouraged in this hope by the continuing interest in my first book, Aboriginal Adolescence (1988), the first ethnography to focus exclusively on Australian Aboriginal adolescents, as a desire to better understand these adolescents and their circumstances is developing both in Australianist ethnography and in the general population.
2015 -present Senior Honourary Research Fellow, School of Social Sciences, University of Western Australia
1994- 2014 Professor, Discipline of Anthropology and Sociology, University of Western Australia
1974 Rutgers University Bevier Graduate Fellowship
1973 Phi Beta Kappa Book Prize
1973 B.A Summa cum laude
1980-3 NIMH National Research Service Award Trainee
American Anthropological Association, Member until December 2014
Australian Anthropological Society, Currently Member
NTEU Member 1994-2014, Branch Committee Member 2011—2014, Life Membership from 2015
University of Western Australia Academic Staff Association, Member 1994 – 2014, Board Member 2012—2014, Staff Writer 2015-2017, Honorary Member 2016 to present
- 2011 An Ethnography of Stress: The Social Determinants of Health in Aboriginal Australia. Culture, Mind, and Society, the Book Series of the Society for Psychological Anthropology. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
- 2012 Life History and Real Life: An Example of Neuroanthropology in Aboriginal Australia. Annals of Anthropological Practice 63:149-166
- 2014 Envy and Egalitarianism in Aboriginal Australia: An Integrative Approach. The Australian Journal of Anthropology 25:1-25.
- 2017 The Embodiment of Sorcery: Supernatural Aggression, Belief and Envy in a Remote Aboriginal Community. The Australian Journal of Anthropology 28(3) doi:10.1111/taja.12228
- Burbank, V., Senior, K. and S. McMullen. 2015 Precocious Pregnancy, Sexual Conflict and Early Childbearing in Remote Aboriginal Australia. Anthropological Forum 25 (3):243-261
Email: victoria.burbank [at] uwa.edu.au