© 2011

An Ethnography of Stress

The Social Determinants of Health in Aboriginal Australia

  • Authors

Part of the Culture, Mind, and Society book series (CMAS)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiv
  2. Victoria Katherine Burbank
    Pages 21-55
  3. Victoria Katherine Burbank
    Pages 79-103
  4. Victoria Katherine Burbank
    Pages 105-132
  5. Victoria Katherine Burbank
    Pages 133-154
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 161-219

About this book


Health inequality is a global issue. This book examines the problem through an in-depth look at a remote Australian Aboriginal community characterized by a degree of premature morbidity and mortality similar to that in other disadvantaged populations. Its synthesis of cognitive anthropology with frameworks drawn from epidemiology, evolutionary theory, and social, psychological and biological sciences illuminates the actions, emotions, and stresses of daily life. While this analysis implicates structures and processes of inequality in the genesis of ill health, its focus remains on the people who suffer, grieve, and live with the dilemmas of an intercultural life.


community ethnography identity mortality

About the authors

VICTORIA KATHERINE BURBANK Professor of Anthropology at the University of Western Australia. She is the author of Aboriginal Adolescence: Maidenhood in an Australian Community and Fighting Women: Anger and Aggression in Aboriginal Australia.

Bibliographic information


"Overall, An Ethnography of Stress is a must read for anyone seeking to understand 'the' Aboriginal circumstance. I see myself returning to it over and again, since it is intellectually exciting, humanly confronting, and enlightening. Never idealizing Aboriginal life-worlds, it makes plain how 'deep' the wounds of marginalization and racism run and yet there is capacity for dynamic adaptation, which is needed on both sides of the intercultural fault line. As Burbank leaves us to ponder, what indigenous and non-indigenous Australians will have to marshal in order to achieve equality is 'mutual acknowledgment and dedication to a shared future.'" - Ute Eickelkamp, Oceania

"This is a brave, hugely original work on topics of global interest and significance. In its quiet, persistent way it lays out a wealth of ideas and richly detailed evidence that grip the reader, offering fresh views and new insights into old, established questions about social change, inequity, and health. I would like to see this book on the desks of anthropologists, epidemiologists, public health officials, physicians, social workers, and policy makers around the world." - Carol Worthman, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor, Department of Anthropology, Emory University, USA

"Victoria Burbank is concerned with the human condition - not just what makes people from Numbulwar sick and die early, but what makes us all sick and die early. As a result, readers will learn as much about themselves and their own societies, as they do about Aboriginal people of Numbulwar. This is compelling reading for scholars, students, policy makers, or anyone wanting a serious examination of the parlous state of Aboriginal health and wellbeing." - Sherry Saggers, co-author of Aboriginal Health and Society and Dealing with Alcohol: Indigenous Usage in Australia, New Zealand & Canada