Wolfe Creek Meteor Crater: Indigenous Science Queers Western Science

Stephen Muecke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A Modern is someone who believes that others believe. An agnostic, conversely, does not wonder whether it is necessary to believe or not, but why the Moderns so desperately need belief in order to strike up a relationship with others. (Latour, Modern Cult, 2)

Here’s the problem: how can the Wolfe Creek meteorite crater, located in the Australian outback, be both an object of Western science [NOTE 1] and be embedded in Walmajarri and Jaru knowledge without the one cancelling the other out, without cheap relativism, and without that old-style scientific condescension that has ‘us’ acknowledging ‘their’ beliefs, while we really know?

This kind of comparative study, exploring the possibilities of Indigenous science, is an expanding field marked out by the work of David Turnbull (Masons, Tricksters and Cartographers), Helen Verran (‘Science’), and David Chambers and Richard Gillespie (‘Locality’). But in the process of focussing largely on Wolfe Creek, my argument develops a Latourian line of inquiry. I do not assume that ‘Western science’ and ‘Indigenous science’ have anything in common when they talk about the meteor crater. It would be easy to assume that they both have ‘nature’ in common, as do Berkes and Berkes in a fairly typical fashion when they define Indigenous knowledge as ‘a body of knowledge built up by a group of people through generations of living in close contact with nature’ (‘Ecological Complexity’, 7). Bruno Latour, Eduardo Vivieros de Castro (Cannibal) and Phillipe Descola (Beyond Nature) have insistently demonstrated that the concept of nature in the singular is a European invention, and rarely has any part to play in Indigenous worlds. With that common ‘rug’ pulled out from under the feet of the analysis, interesting possibilities open up. This essay will follow the linkages that articulate ‘things’ like the Wolfe Creek crater through different knowledge networks that sustain the ‘things’ themselves.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalCtrl-Z: New Media Philosophies
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Wolfe Creek Meteorite
  • Indigenous Science
  • Western Science


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