BA (Kings College, Cambridge), PhD (Sydney)

Professor Nicolas Peterson, School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University continues his interest in contemporary Aboriginal society and its relations with the state. His recent research includes: culture and economy in Aboriginal Australia; Aboriginal sea and land tenure; the anthropological work of Donald Thomson; Indigenous citizenship; anthropological photography; Warlpiri song cycles; outstations as manifestations of Aboriginal life projects; and the German anthropological tradition in Australia.

Honorary Secretary Cambridge Australia Trust/Scholarships, 2003 – 2016R03;

July 2007 to April 2008: Dean of the Faculty of Arts

July 2007 to May 2008: Dean College of Arts and Social Sciences

Head, School of Archaeology and Anthropology 1tst July -31st December 2008.

Chair, Australian Institute of Criminology’s Human Ethics Committee 2009 – on going

Chair, Board of the Humanities and Creative Arts Press of ANU Press, 2008- on going

Recipient of the (ANU) Vice-Chancellor's Staff Excellence Award for Reconciliation, 2012. This award recognises the contributions Professor Peterson made to promoting and achieving increased participation of Indigenous students and staff at the University, and to achieving the vision and targets set out in The Australian National University Reconciliation Action Plan.

In 2009 he was the Joel Kahn Annual Anthropology Lecturer at La Trobe University. On the 26th May he delivered a lecture titled: ‘Is the Aboriginal landscape sentient? Animism, the new animism and the Warlpiri’.

In 1999 he received The Lucy Mair Medal for Applied Anthropology from the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland for contributing to, ‘facilitating the recognition of Aboriginal rights in Australia, supported by rigorous anthropological scholarship’.

In 1990 he gave the biennial Wentworth Lecture for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, on the topic: Studying man and man's nature: the history of the institutionalisation of Aboriginal anthropology.

  • N. Peterson and A.Kenny (eds) (2017) German ethnography in Australia. Canberra: ANU Press.
  • N. Peterson (2016) What was Dr Coombs thinking? Nyirrpi, policy and the future. In Experiments in self-determination: histories of the outstation movement in Australia. Canberra: ANU Press. Pp. 161-178
  • F. Myers and N. Peterson (2016) The origins and history of outstations as Aboriginal life projects. In Experiments in self-determination: histories of the outstation movement in Australia. Canberra: ANU Press. Pp. 1-22
  • N. Peterson and F. Myers (eds) (2016) Experiments in self-determination: histories of the outstation movement in Australia. Canberra: ANU Press
  • N. Peterson (2015) Place, personhood and marginalization: ontology and community in remote desert Australia. Anthropologica 57: 419-500
  • N. Peterson (2014)The present and the ethnographic present: change in the production of anthropological knowledge about Aboriginal Australia. Les Actes de Colloques, Musee du Quai Branly (
  • N. Peterson (2013) Finding one’s way in Arnhem Land. In Up close and personal: on peripheral perspectives and the production of anthropological knowledge (eds) C. Shore and S. Trnka. New York: Berghahn. Pp. 108-124
  • N. Peterson (2013) Community development, civil society and local government in the future of remote Northern Territory growth towns. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 14(4): 339-352
  • N. Peterson (2013) On the persistence of sharing: personhood, asymmetrical reciprocity, and demand sharing in the Indigenous Australian domestic moral economy. The Australian Journal of Anthropology 24:166-176
  • N. Peterson (2011) Is the Aboriginal landscape sentient? Animism, the new animism and the Warlpiri. Oceania 81(2): 167-179
  • N. Peterson (2010) Other people’s lives: secular assimilation, culture and ungovernability. In Culture crisis: anthropology and politics in Aboriginal Australia (eds) Jon Altman and Melinda Hinkson. Sydney: UNSW Press. Pp 248-258
  • N. Peterson (2010) Common law, statutory law, and the political economy of the recognition of Indigenous Australian rights in land. In Aboriginal title and Indigenous peoples (eds) L. Knafla and H. Westra. Vancouver: UBC Press. Pp. 171-184
  • N. Peterson (2008) ''Too sociological’? Revisiting ‘Aboriginal territorial organization’. In An appreciation of difference: WEH Stanner and Aboriginal Australia, (eds) M. Hinkson and J. Beckett. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press. Pp. 185-197
  • N. Peterson, L. Allen, L. Hamby (eds) (2008). The Makers and making of Indigenous Australian museum collections. Melbourne: MUP
  • N. Peterson (2006) Early 20th century photography of Australian Aboriginal families: illustration or evidence? Visual Anthropology Review 21(1&2):11-26
  • N. Peterson (2005) What can the pre-colonial and frontier economies tell us about engagement with the real economy? Indigenous life projects and the conditions for development. In Culture, economy and governance in Aboriginal Australia (eds) D. Austin-Broos and G. Macdonald. Sydney: Sydney University Press. Pp.7-18
  • N. Peterson (2005) On the visibility of Indigenous Australian systems of marine tenure. In Indigenous use and management of marine resources (eds) N. Kishigami and J. Savelle. Osaka: Senri Ethnological Studies 67:427-444
  • N. Peterson (2004) The myth of the 'walkabout': movement in the Aboriginal domain, In Population mobility and Indigenous peoples in Australasia and North America. J. Taylor and M. Bell (eds.). London: Routledge. Pp. 223-238.
  • N. Peterson and J. Taylor (2003) The modernising of the Indigenous domestic moral economy: kinship, accumulation and household composition, The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 4(1&2):105-122.
  • C. Pinney and N. Peterson (eds) (2003) Photography's other histories. Durham, USA: Duke University Press.
  • N. Peterson and B. Rigsby (eds) (1998) Customary Marine Tenure in Australia. Sydney: Oceania Publications.
  • N. Peterson and W. Sanders (eds) (1998) Citizenship and Indigenous Ausralians: Changing Conceptions and Possibilities. Cambridge: Cambridge
  • N. Peterson (1998) Welfare colonialism and citizenship: politics, economics and agency. In Citizenship and indigenous Australians (eds) N. Peterson and W. Sanders. Cambridge : CUP. Pp.101-117
  • N. Peterson (1993) Demand sharing: reciprocity and the pressure for generosity among foragers. American Anthropologist 95(4): 860-874