Dr Diana James

Phd, Australian National University 2006; Advanced PItjantjatjarta Language , IAD,1980; Dip Ed (T.E.S.L.) University of Sydney;BA,Macquarie University;
Honorary Fellow, CASS,ANU and Honorary Fellow, CASM, National Centre for Aboriginal Language and Music Studies, University of Adelaide.
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
T: 02 61250338

Areas of expertise

  • Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Cultural Studies 200201
  • Comparative And Cross Cultural Education 130302
  • Tourism 1506
  • Performing Arts And Creative Writing 1904
  • Visual Arts And Crafts 1905

Research interests

Indigenous cultural and ecological knowledge.

Visual anthropology.

Performance and visual arts.

Western Desert language, oral song cycles, storytelling and music.

Cross-cultural translation of philosophy, metaphors and meaning.

Biography

Dr Diana James is an Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Humanities and Arts at the Australian National University and the Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music at Adelaide University. Her research focus is the Indigenous song, story and dance of the Western Desert. Since 1975 she has worked as an applied anthropologist, fluent in Pitjantjatjara, with the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) people in community arts, tourism, oral history translation, local governance and cultural heritage. In 2006 she received her doctorate in anthropology from the Australian National University and has been engaged since as a senior researcher on collaborative projects between the university, museums and Aboriginal organisations. Diana developed with Martu, Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people the seven year collaborative research project Alive with the Dreaming! Songlines of the Western Desert. The research partnership produced several major public outcomes: the Ngintaka Exhibition in 2014 at the South Australian Museum, the Canberra Centenary 2013 performance of the APY traditional opera Kungkarangkalpa Seven Sisters and the nationally acclaimed exhibition Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters at the National Museum of Australia in 2017-18.

Currently she is working on activating the archive of the Western Desert Songlines research project. Working with Indigenous co-researchers in the massive archive of  film, photography, aural and written data. Diana is also completing the biography of Nganyinytja, a Pitjantjatjara woman, who lived from the late 1920s to 2007; a charismatic teacher, philosopher and political leader in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights struggle and the development of the NPY Women’s Council. Diana is also woring with Indigenous researcher Inawinytji Williamson on the SEven Sisters Songline of her people on the APY Lands of South Australia.

Researcher's projects

Current research projects:

Activating the Archive of the Western Desert Songlines research project. Working with Indigenous co-researchers in the massive archive of  film, photography, aural and written data available for the next generations in their communities. Supporting CARCLEW recording of Tjitjiku Tjukurpa in South Australia and making the archives accessible to communities through Ara Irititja.

National Centre for Aboriginal Language and Music Studies,CASM: Dr Diana James is working with Indigenous scholar Inawinytji Williamson at the University of Adelaide on the Seven Sisters Songline of her people on the APY Lands of South Australia.

Nganyinytja Biography of a Thought Leader: Writing the biography of a Pitjantjatjara woman Nganyinytja, from the late 1920s to 2007; a charismatic teacher, philosopher and political leader in the rehabilitation of young petrol sniffers, leading women in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights struggle and the development of the NPY Women’s Council. She was also a reconciliation leader welcoming visitors to her homeland to learn about Indigenous connection to country, she opened her country and her heart to the world.

2012-2018 Alive with the Dreaming! Songlines of the Western Desert ARC Linkage - Dr Diana James ANU was the co-ordinator and Senior Research Associate on this major  collaborative research project with Martu, Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people.

Major public outputs of this research included:

Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters exhibition at the National Museum of Australia, September 2017 – February 2018. Public outcome of the Alive with the Dreaming! Songlines of the Western Desert ARC Project. Senior Research Associate and Co-ordinator, Dr Diana James 2010- 2017.

Research significance 

Sharing Australia's Indigenous heritage with the wider public by interpreting and communicating the importance of Songlines as repositories of Indigenous heritage knowledge of places, ancestors, ecological and cultural landscapes across the continent of Australia.

Evidence of excellence 

This exhibition is acclaimed nationally for the excellence of communication of research material into the significance of Indigenous Songlines to the national cultural heritage of Australia.

Ngintaka Exhibition, South Australian Museum, 29 March – 22June 2014. This cexhibition was co-curated with the Indigenous custodians of the APY Ngintaka Songline who with the ANU and a multidisciplinary research team recorded the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara oral, dance and song tradition of the Ngintaka (Perentie Lizard) Songline across APY Lands of South Australia.

Kungkarangkalpa: Seven Sisters Songline 2013 performance at the National Museum of Australia in March 2013. Kungkarangkalpa was a unique performance of an ancient Songline by traditional APY Lands dancers and singers with nationally acclaimed indigenous artistic direct Wesley Enoch. It was celebrated nationally and internationally by viewers of the live broadcast. The film was shown during NAIDOC Week 2016 as a strong and powerful presentation Aboriginal cultural tradition.

Kuru Ala: Kungkarangkalpa Seven Sisters Songline, 2015, Director/ researcher/translator: Dr Diana James and Cinematographer: Caro Macdonald

2017 November - Published on the website http://sevensisterssongline.com

 

Waters of the Songline,2016,  Director/ Producer/ Researcher: Dr Diana James and Filmmaker /Cinematographer/Editor: Caro Macdonald

2017 November - Published on the website  http://sevensisterssongline.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Past student projects

Martu Paint Country: the artchaeology of colour and aesthetics in Western Desert rock art and contemporary acrylic art.  Phd thesis by Samantha Higgs, Australian National University, 2016.

Publications

Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  23 October 2019 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers