Dr Wojciech Dabrowski
My association with the Department of Anthropology at the University of Sydney goes back to the early 1990s. At that time my PhD thesis A Line to Heaven,Change and Continuity in Response to Christianizing and Globalizing Pressures in the Western Highlands of PNG was close to completion. At that time the Department was renowned for its Melanesian scholarship. The possibility of discussing the finer points of Christianization and modernization of Papua New Guinea with Professor Michael Allen and Doctors Jadran Mimica and Neil Maclean was a thrill for me and a great help in formulating the final conclusions in my thesis. Further talks over the next decades helped me to define new lines of research investigation and imaginative interpretations of Melanesian ethnographies.
My work on the issues of religion, ritual, modernization, globalization and art have brought me back to PNG several times, both to Rulna in the WesternHighlands where I initially conducted my twenty-two months long fieldwork, and subsequently to the Trobriand Islands where I was employed as anthropological consultant to both documentary and feature films on Bronislaw Malinowski.
In the meantime, a teaching stint at the Department followed by lecturing appointments at Macquarie and Wollongong Universities developed skills which made me see myself as a teacher, a role which I cherish and continue to hone.
Another area of my continuing engagement relates to Aboriginal Australia. It started with my work as a Native Title consultant to South Coast Aborigines in the Jerringa Aboriginal Community.
Nowadays, I share my time between professional engagements both in Australia and in Poland, within and outside of academia. In both countries I teach material drawn both from my original research and from currently topical issues relating to Melanesia, Australia and Poland.
As a measure of my appreciation for Melanesian and Aboriginal people, and in return for the generosity they have shown me, I began a practice of mentoring young people from their communities, who ventured into Australian universities. Whilst initially this activity was to help these students engage with the Australian socio-cultural environment which was foreign to them (something I had already gone through myself as a migrant to this country), it gradually developed into a broader project. It now involves people from different walks of life, both in Australia and in Poland wishing to gain insights into the relevance of culture in their everyday lives.
Throughout all of my endeavours my research continues. Supported by grants from EU and private benefactors I now study the origins and world distribution of prehistoric stone artifacts, rock paintings and monolithic stone arrangements. This interest in stones, which had its genesis in the times of my New Guinea Highlands fieldwork where pre-historic stone items were used in ceremonial contexts, has subsequently brought me to various places in Europe, the Pacific region and Africa.It represents a significant shift in my approach to scholarship as I move from the intensive scrutiny of small scale societies towards a broader and more speculative approach covering big dimensions in terms of space and time.
At present I am trying to accommodate that change as well as deal with great logistical and conceptual challenges presented by my interest in the worldwide distribution of stone figurines and artifacts, the origins of which go back several thousand years and beyond. My current efforts concentrate on combining archeological and anthropological approaches with personal insights derived from visiting sites of interest.
Consequently my energy goes into finding an appropriate articulation for this worldwide manifestation of human unity in a way that is academically rigorous, and more generally, fascinating for anybody wishing to explore humanity’s rich past.
Keywords: Religion, Christianization, Change and continuity, Prehistoric stone figurines, Rock paintings, Stone magic circles, Melanesia, Aboriginal culture.