Sand talk : how Indigenous thinking can save the world

by Tyson Yunkaporta

Other authorsJames Henry (Photographer)
Paperback, 2019



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Melbourne, Victoria : Text Publishing, 2019.

Media reviews

Perhaps the most unusual science book of the year is Sand Talk. by Tyson Yunkaporta (Text), which he describes as "a series of yarns with diverse people who all make me feel uncomfortable". Yunkaporta examines subjects such as food, medicine, gender relations and financial and environmental systems by using visual symbols to represent his thinking – he carves objects, and draws pictures in sand. "I'm not reporting on Indigenous Knowledge systems for a global audience’s perspective," he says. "I'm examining global systems from an Indigenous Knowledge perspective." It's a dramatically new (to some) and absorbing way of engaging with the world, and stops just short of exasperation with self-important "western science". "Silly thinking is something everybody is guilty of from time to time," Yunkaporta writes. "It is forgivable as long as you're still listening." It illustrates perfectly that there is no such thing as "the science", that we should question anyone who tries to claim scientific thought as their own, and that intellectual curiosity is everything.

User reviews

LibraryThing member willszal
Tyson Yunkaporta is an aboriginal Australian. There are a lot of books getting attention these days focused on "indigenous wisdom," and this is a standout.

The first thing that stands out to me about the book is its structure; to write each chapter, Yunkaporta crafted an object to serve as a "mnemonic." I've experimented some over the years with using different methods of structuring writing, and I've heard many stories about aboriginal song lines, but I haven't seen anything like this before! It is a practice I'd like to reflect more on.

Yunkaporta begins by speaking about narcissists. He establishes that the difference between colonizing cultures and indigenous cultures is that the former have a mindset of "better-than." This is a very simple idea that also is very true.

Like a lot of books these days, "Sand Talk" gets pretty deep into ontology and epistemology. At the last chapter, he recaps the book through looking at five windows of knowing: 1) learning through close observation and demonstration, 2) passing on knowledge with a helping hand then gradually stepping back, 3) verbally, 4) memorization through deep listening, and 5) thinking, reflecting, and understanding. Like many themes in the book, this is a meta-framework that can be used to reinterpret the book itself.

In this way, it is a book that can be read many times, and new depths will be found with subsequent readings.
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