White guilt, Aboriginal culturalism and the impoverishment of tertiary education in Australia
Pybus, C and Moore, T, White guilt, Aboriginal culturalism and the impoverishment of tertiary education in Australia, Journal of the European Association for Studies of Australia, 10, (1) pp. 59-77. ISSN 2013-6897 (2019) [Refereed Article]
Much scholarship in Australia and elsewhere, across a range of disciplines analyses how ‘white’ hegemony has informed and continues to inform the academy among other cultural institutions, and how the invisibility of ‘white’ privilege has discriminated against minorities such as Indigenous people. Attempting to redress this, many universities have implemented a raft of policies such as the Aboriginalisation of staffing, race-based appointments and promotions, privileging of particular forms of Aboriginal knowledge over disciplinary knowledge, and Aboriginal control over research involving Aboriginal matters. While well-intentioned, we argue that these policies are contributing to the emergence of another problematic monolithic category which is undermining its own and the university’s putative objectives such as equity. Whereas Whiteness Studies and Critical Race Theory point to ideological teaching, research biases, and other barriers to equity for Indigenous people, there is little scrutiny of how one outcome of the above-mentioned policies is the same: ideological teaching and research biases with deleterious consequences beyond their oppositional strategic value. Moreover, succour is given to the promotion of aggressive race-based division which in turn feeds and informs the policies of ostensible redress. This is counterproductive to the progression of the equity agenda in respect of Aborigines that these policies are presumed to support. Nevertheless, the supporting discourse remains powerful and enjoys the status of orthodoxy. Not only do these policies receive little scholarly scrutiny, any attempt to do so attracts scathing critique. Following Elizabeth Rata’s analyses of a similar policy agenda in New Zealand universities, we provide an example from one Australian university (hereinafter ‘the university’) by way of illustrating how these policies are proving counterproductive to the universities’ aims, and in turn their wider objectives.
Aboriginal Australians; culturalism; identity politics; tertiary education; white guilt