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Unsettling the Gap

Race, Politics and Indigenous Education


Sophie Rudolph

Unsettling the Gap: Race, Politics and Indigenous Education examines pressing issues of inequality in education. The notion of gap—and the need to close it—is used widely in public and policy debates to name the nature and scope of disadvantage. In the competitive world of education, gaps have become associated with students who are seen to be "falling behind," "failing" or "dropping out." A global deficit discourse is, therefore, mobilised and normalised. But this discourse has a history and is deeply political. Unsettling the Gap examines this history and how it is politically activated through an analysis of the "Australian Closing the Gap in Indigenous Disadvantage" policy. In this policy discourse the notion of gap serves as a complex and multiple signifier, attached to individuals, communities and to national history.

In unravelling these diverse modalities of gap, the text illuminates the types of ruling binaries that tend to direct dynamics of power and knowledge in a settler colonial context. This reveals not only the features of the crisis of "Indigenous educational disadvantage" that the policy seeks to address, but the undercurrents of a different type of crisis, namely the authority of the settler colonial state. By unsettling the normalised functions of gap discourse the book urges critical reflections on the problem of settler colonial authority and how it constrains the possibilities of Indigenous educational justice.

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Chapter 3. Questions of Time


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Image 3.1. Maree Clarke, Mutti Mutti/Yorta Yorta/Boon Wurrung peoples, Made from Memory (Nan’s house) 2017 (detail), holographic photograph, 100 × 150 cm, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Purchased 2017 in recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum. © Maree Clarke. Image courtesy the artist and Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne. ← 43 | 44 →



The Closing the Gap policy responds to problems of Indigenous disadvantage that are connected to the history of colonisation in Australia and proposes targets that hope for a better future. There are, therefore, clear connections between past, present and future explicitly engaged in the policy discourse. In this chapter, however, I will investigate the contours of the notion of time and look at what might become visible when the past, present and future are understood to be dynamic, interrelated and multiple. This lays both conceptual and methodological ground for the analysis of the policy and its history that occurs in the further chapters of the book.

Time here, is understood, not (only) as discrete periods, but as something that travels, is constant and can encompass both continuity and change bound together. The artwork that introduces this chapter is a detail of a work by Maree Clarke, titled Made from Memory (Nan’s House). It depicts a cabinet that holds a number of different objects. The cabinet is the type of furniture that would have been brought to Australia...

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