Race matters: Zohl de Ishtar. Holding Yawulyu: White Culture and Black Women’s Law. Spinifex Press, 2005 .

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Zohl de Ishtar has written an interesting piece of work that draws upon her personal experience of working alongside Indigenous women in the community of Wirrimanu (Balgo) on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert in central Western Australia. The book, Holding Yawulyu: White Culture and Black Women’s Law , pivots on de Ishtar’s efforts at problematising the relationships that emerge, erode and persist between Indigenous people who live within remote communities and the non-Indigenous people who come, transiently and long-term to reside in these townships.The book’s contents have been described as evocative, profound, post-colonial and radically feminist, with the work being published and marketed within the frame of an ever-growing social consciousness,reflexivity and empathy among non-Indigenous readers. I see de Ishtar’s work as framing Indigenous women’s Law and life on largely non-Indigenous terms, for a non-Indigenous audience. This in itself is part of an ongoing discussion and point of contention in anthropology and related Indigenous and literary studies [1]. It is in relation to these disciplines that I locate myself and therefore it is from this perspective that I approach Holding Yawulyu . I also identify myself as someone who works collaboratively with Indigenous women in contexts of Law and land. The reason for flagging these personal identifiers is in response to what I feel de Ishtar has attempted to do in her writing, but is not entirely successful in achieving—namely, the act of reflexive writing. Positioning oneself appears to be a large part of de Ishtar’s initial commitment to this work, with the view that it is an outsider’s account and response to Aboriginal women’s Law and culture that is documented here. I am not convinced that de Ishtar’s Holding Yawulyu successfully maintains this position and it is this observation of the work that I wish to speak to.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-20
Number of pages4
JournalHecate's Australian Women's Book Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • book review
  • Indigenous Australians
  • remote communities


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