Storytracking includes engaging accounts of many of the colorful figures involved in the nineteenth-century development of Central Australia, and it is an argument for a multiperspectival theory of history. It presents descriptions of an important aboriginal culture--the Arrernte--and it critically examines ethnography. It exposes the colonialist underbelly of all modern academic culture study, yet it embraces the situation as one of creative potential outlining an interactivist epistemology with which to negotiate the classical alternatives of objectivism and subjectivism. Gill presents an examination of the emergent academic study of religion focused on two exemplary scholars--Mircea Eliade and Jonathan Smith--offering a play theory of religion as the basis for innovative critical discussions of text, comparison, interpretation, the definition of religion, academic writing style, and the role of "the other."
Based on painstakingly detailed research, Gill exposes disturbing and confounding dimensions of the modern world, particularly academia. Yet, beyond the pessimism that often characterizes postmodernity, he charts an optimistic and creative course framed in the terms of play.
[Though it is not here a direct part of the storytracking of Eliade's "Numbakulla" event to its Arrernte source, it is of interest to include other uses of this account. The following is Géza Róheim's use of Spencer and Gillen's Numbakulla account as published in The Arunta based on materials found pp. 355-72. It is found in his TheRiddle of the Sphinx or Human Origins (London: The International Psycho-analytic Library, 1934), pp. 139-40. This use is discussed in chapter 5 of Storytracking.]
Nambakalla, the eternal, arose in Lamburkna. He had no knanindja, but he divided the localities among the knanindjas. He made an aknanaua in the rocks of Lamburkna and drew an ilpintira upon it. He was the first to setup a kauaua in this place, and to put a tjuringa on the illpintira. The first kuruna (soul) arose out of thistjurunga, and from the soul arose a man who was the first chief of the Wild-cats. Then he made other souls, and tjurungas, so that every soul had a tjurunga and a knanindja. These he gave to the first Wild-cat chief to divide up, telling him which caves were for which tjurunga. Later the tjuruntas were divided into two groups, one masculine and one feminine. Pairs of these were bound together and carried in this way.
Later on, a 'smaller' Wild-cat chief came out of the original tjurunga, and the first chief gave him a pair of tjurungas in a sack called ambilia-ikura, but before this they were kept in a pitchi (wooden trough). The chief took a pair of tjurungas from the ambilia-ikura, one being masculine and the other feminine. The masculine tjurunga became another Wild-cat chief, and the feminine one became a female devil (labarindja woman). These two wandered together. They lay down to sleep and the Wild-cat chief put the ambilia-ikura under his head. He was on the left, the she-devil on the right. A soul (kuruna) came out of the sack (ambilia-ikura) and went into the she-devil (labarindja). Thus she gave birth to the first Malpunga. Night came again, another soul came out of the sack, and the second Malpunga was born. Then yet another soul went into the she-devil, and she gave birth to the second woman, Lungarinia. During his wanderings, the Wild-cat chief found all the rites that are still performed. In the land of Wonkanguru he made a rock hole (sacred hole, ptta altjura) and on the floor of this he put the sack (mbilia- ikura) with the tjurungas. They were in pairs and were all stone (talkara). Then he took out the lower of each pair, namely, the ones that had feminine kurunas. He took two from the row and turned them into wooden tjurungas called tidjaniras, bored holes in them and turned them from women into men. The kurunas of these men went into the she-devil (Lungaarinia) and were reborn as tuanyirakas. Thus there were two bull-roarers and two men, all called Tuanyiraka. He gave the two wooden tuanyirakas to the two Malpungas. Again the Wild-cat chief took out the lower or feminine stone tjurungas and turned them into wood. Hence the Wild-cat women only have tjurungas of wood instead of stone. Some were bored through and turned into tidjanira alknarintja, that is, alknarintja bull- roarers. The other wooden ones were again tied to their stone husbands, and for this reason such a pair is calledtjoananga ("we two are friends" or "we belong together"). In the course of the wanderings both male and female souls went out of these joined tjurungas and entered the two women. Hence arose many men and women. The chief instituted the rites of circumcision, which the two Tuanyirakas performed by cutting off the foreskins of the two Malpungas. The rites culminated in a ceremony associated with the ambilia-ikuras, and, after binding the two malpunga-tjurungas together firmly, he put them in the other. The novices lay resting with their heads on the hill of the inkura ceremony. The two women sat by the chief in the same position as they had lain in on the night when the kurunas had come out of the ambilia-ikura and the two Malpungas had been born. In this way all the novices were rebegotten and reborn by means of the kurunas which came from the ambilia-ikura.