Abstract: Seeking to fully know the other can have the effect of minimising the wholly different gestalt of the other’s lifeworld. This mode of knowing can thereby be a means of reduction, generalisation, possession, and control. In this essay, the author analyses a contemporary ethnography of Warlpiri women’s song-poems, Jardiwanpa Yawulyu: Warlpiri Women’s Songs from Yuendumu (2014). This ethnography is theorised as a mode of open text that animates a collision of epistemologies: those of Western settler culture, and those of the Warlpiri women who collaboratively authored the book. The author emphasises the cultural lenses that she brings to the intellectual and emotional work of reflexive close reading, and insists that her own position as whitefella, settler, Westerner, combined with the necessary partiality of the text, renders her incapable of any sort of comprehensive access to the ‘total poem,’ the ritual situation, which the
book represents.

Keywords: reflexive ethnography; open text; Warlpiri poetics; Warlpiri songs; songpoetry; ethnopoetics

Copyright © Joan Fleming 2018. This text may be archived and redistributed both in electronic form and in hard copy, provided that the author and journal are properly cited and no fee is charged.