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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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As we all know, no work is ever the product of a single person. And while I take full responsibility for the analysis and research developed in this book, I also thank those who have influenced and supported me in large and small, knowing and unknowing ways, throughout the process.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung of the Kulin Nations on whose unceded land I have been privileged to walk and work, while writing this book. I would also like to acknowledge that writing of this book has, in addition, occurred on the lands of the Dja Dja Wurrung, the Larrakia, the Eora and the Darug, as well as the Musqueam of ‘Canada’. I pay my respects to the peoples of these Nations—and their elders past, present and emerging—who retain deep cultural, intellectual, spiritual and historical connections to their lands and continue to defy the constraints and violence of colonialism.

My thanks go to the many librarians and archivists who assisted me throughout the research phase for this work in Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane and Sydney. To those who hosted me in Vancouver and Birmingham during a study trip in 2014 and to the organisers and participants of the Histories of the Education Summer School in Umea in July of that year—thank you for your insights and interest, especially Ian Grosvenor for suggestions ← xv | xvi → for engagement with artworks. Thanks also to the University of Melbourne for...

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