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David McKnight

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Died  2006, Rome, Italy
David McKnight wwwdavidmcknightcomausitesallthemesdavidmck
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July 18th david mcknight author of the power of zero

David McKnight, born 4 March 1935 – died 14 May 2006, was a British anthropologist who specialized in the anthropology of Australian aborigines, with particular regard to the tribes of the Cape York Peninsula. He conducted over 20 field trips among the Aborigines in Australia from 1965 to 1999.



McKnight was born in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1935. He completed his B.A. in both English and Philosophy Bishop's University in Quebec in 1957. He went on to study in Great Britain, University College London, obtaining his M.A. degree in Anthropology in 1965 on African death cults. He then shifted his research focus to Australian Aboriginal studies, beginning with a first foray into field research in Queensland in 1965.

He was hired at Edinburgh University as a lecturer in Social Anthropology three years later, and then moved to teach the same topic at The London School of Economics. In 1977 he earned his doctorate with a thesis on the intricate marriage systems among the indigenous peoples on the Mornington Islands. He was appointed Senior Lecturer in 1982 and held that post until his retirement in 1997.

On the Mornington islands he studied in particular depth the Lardil, the Kaiadilt and the Yangkaal, while at Aurukun he became an authority on the Wik-Mungkan people. His approach clarified that the Australian kinship classification systems were not a code restricted to clan marriage alliances but informed a total cosmology, even if contradictions existed from sub-system to sub-system, which caused dissonances in obligations that infra-tribal arguments had to iron out. He mastered the ceremonial language of the Yardil people, the all but extinct Damin, of which he became the last living speaker, and was given the tribal name of Boorarungee- (the man who asks why). Despite his clear-eyed and frank insights into the abuses that were rife in many indigenous Australian communities from alcohol and other causes, local respect for him was such that Lardil elders asked him to teach Damin to their children. Long interested in Italy, he settled in Rome on his retirement, and, on the dissolution of his first marriage to Meg Phillips by whom he had four children, he married Alessandra Solivetti.

Major books

  • (1995) Lardil: Keepers of the Dreamtime, Chronicle Books, San Francisco 978-0-811-80834-7
  • (1999) People, Countries, and the Rainbow Serpent: Systems of Classification Among the Lardil of Mornington Island, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-195-09621-7
  • (2002) From Hunting to Drinking: The Devastating Effects of Alcohol on an Australian Aboriginal Community, Psychology Press, ISBN 978-0-415-27150-9
  • (2005) Of Marriage, Violence and Sorcery: The Quest for Power in Northern Queensland,Ashgate, ISBN 978-0-754-64465-1
  • (2004) Going the Whiteman's Way: Kinship and Marriage Among Australian Aborigines, Ashgate, ISBN 978-0-754-64238-1
  • References

    David McKnight Wikipedia