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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 4. Standing on the Bridge: Critical Encounters with Ethics and Power


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Critical Encounters with Ethics and Power

Image 4.1. Brenda L. Croft, Only shadows remain, 1998, Ilfachrome digital print. Image: 49 × 76 cm. © Brenda L. Croft/Copyright Agency, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne. ← 65 | 66 →


The politics of knowledge

Australia’s colonial history is a contested and contentious field. During the last four decades debate has raged over how the past should be represented, what is legitimate historical ‘fact’ and who speaks for whom (see for example, Blainey 1993, Birch 1997, MacIntyre & Clark 2003). Added to this is the uneasy place of the role of research within the colonial project. As Goenpul scholar Aileen Moreton-Robinson points out, the production of knowledge about Indigenous people is strongly linked to powerful ideas of racial hierarchy and colonial expansion:

It is academics who represent themselves as ‘knowers’, whose work and training is to ‘know’. They have produced knowledge about Indigenous people but their way of knowing is never thought of by white people as being racialised despite whiteness being exercised epistemologically. (Moreton-Robinson 2011, 75)

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