Australian academics, youth movements and the normalisation of the non-whiteness of race

Figure 3: ‘Ethnic’ Dolls on Display in the School Auditorium

I came across an article the other day called ‘Visible Whiteness: Coming to Terms with White Racial Identities’ by Andrew Hickey and Jon Austin from the Centre for Research in Transformative Pedagogy in the Faculty of Education at the University of Southern Queensland. (for anyone interested, (2009) International Journal of The Humanities 7(2): 15).

Yes, that does say “Centre for Research in Transformative Pedagogy”. Someone, somewhere, is funding this. Probably from our tax dollars.

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: it is that bad. My eyes started rolling from the first sentence.

IN THIS AGE of global terror and theWest’s re-affirmed awareness that cultural values in other parts of the world do not always readily lend themselves to the logic it applies, it is issues of race and difference that hold a significant place in our global psyche.

And it only got worse from there.

Whiteness must be excavated if any serious understandings of race hope to move beyond simple paternalism or ‘false charity’. To do anything else is to maintain a view of race that situates the exploration within the realm of the Other whilst implicitly continuing the invisibility of whiteness by drawing attention to ‘othered’ outcomes of race alone. Whiteness, too, must be explored for a full appreciation of how race operates as our ‘most dangerous myth’.

As I have been discovering recently, the Americans have been doing some amazing research into racial identity issues over the last decade. There are empirical studies showing how people perceive race, how people define their own identity and what the societal implications are of these things.

In Australia, we seem to just have wankers citing Edward Said and talking about the “Other”. The whole article barely cites one source post-2000 that wasn’t written by Hickey or Austin.

If you’re still reading, you’re getting to the best part. After 3 pages of this academy circle-jerk about how society normalises “race” as something “non-white”, they get to the actual “activity” that they are running:

The project commenced with a ‘racial audit’ of the school undertaken solely by Austin and Hickey as the project’s principal researchers. … The audit was performed using a visual ethnographic approach, whereby the captured images were applied ‘as a referent for the development of theory’ (Harper 2005: 748). This inductive process sought to uncover the ways race was represented in the physical environment of the school from the perspective of the ethnographic outsider- both researchers had limited connection with the school prior to the project and cast their observations as ‘professional strangers’ (Agar 1996) to the site.

Translation: “we went to some school we had never been to before and took photos.”

To spare you another five pages, here is the rest of the activity:

  • Show photos to kids as trigger for discussion on racism.
  • Make kids take their own photos
  • Get kids to make flyers about racism
  • Have follow-up discussion

There. No Said references, no bullshit about “the ‘generative themes’ that emerged from the collected images and to develop an interpretation grounded in the students’ emerging knowledge of race as a socially mediated, historically signified and arbitrarily constructed mechanism of human stratification”.

That’s a session plan, like I used to design when I did youth leadership-type things. I did that voluntarily and I was not made a “professor” for it.

Seriously, this kind of thing makes those academic staff cuts look pretty great right now.

Figure 4: A Postcard Style Racial Awareness Artifact

Yes, that does say “postcard style racial awareness artifact”. And no, you are not hallucinating: that is some highschool kid’s art project.

I am going to finish this rant the way that I started it: SOMEONE IS FUNDING THIS, PROBABLY OUT OF OUR TAX DOLLARS. Please make it stop!

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  1. #1 by Liam M. Getreu on May 1, 2012 - 3:40 pm

    Of course, we could always defund the unprofitable humanities altogether… http://www.campusreview.com.au/blog/news/public-funding-for-some-degrees-questioned/

  2. #2 by MK on May 1, 2012 - 9:58 pm

    In all honesty, the security of funding irrespective of results has led to a lot of humanities faculties that we would really be better-off without (or at least we would not notice their absence).

    There has to be a yardstick somewhere and it stops long before the Centre for Research in Transformative Pedagogy.

  3. #3 by jaguarpython on September 8, 2012 - 10:22 am

    Humanities are important and deserve to be funded but they’re not helping their cause by publishing intellectually devoid rubbish.

    I mean what is this? They could have actually done a study (like the ones in the US) that are actually interesting or have a point to them.

    I think it’s not so much about funding as it is about having independent review of the quality of the research.

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