The question of what role beliefs play in the description of a culture or a religious system, and whether beliefs as such can be 'tested', arose during a dramatic State Royal Commission into an Aboriginal sacred site claim in South Australia in 1995 focused on the proposed Hindmarsh Island-Goolwa bridge. In this paper I examine some aspects of the legal and anthropological defence of the claim and suggest that insufficient distinction was made between belief as an interior subjective state, and as a gloss on a certain disposition to behave that is conventionally defined. Further, the issue of the social testing of belief statements was obscured by re-phrasing the Royal Commission as an attack on the Aboriginal claimants' right to religious belief Appealing to Needham, Sperber and Quine, and utilising comparative analysis of a similar court case in North America, I suggest an anthropological approach to belief that side-steps some of the critical problems in the anthropology of religion created during the Hindmarsh Island Bridge Royal Commission.
|Journal||Australian Journal of Anthropology, The|
|Publication status||Published - 2002|