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The exhaustion of progressive Aboriginal governance

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Moore, TC (2009) The exhaustion of progressive Aboriginal governance. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

This thesis is a case study of the exhaustion of the progressive public policy approach to Aboriginal governance. Using poststructuralist and constructivist theory and interpretive ethnographic research methods, it finds that the progressive approach rests on notions of solidary culture, unitary identity and binary difference, and the cause of Aboriginal circumstances to be the oppressive power of the colonial and later Australian state, to which Aborigines have been innocently victim. The logic has been that the acknowledgement of particularity, provision of culturally-appropriate services and support for self-determination would facilitate a recovery of culture and self and thence enhanced capacity to engage in national society. The thesis recognises the early usefulness of the approach but documents its contemporary exhaustion as Aboriginal political elites find it in their interests to elaborate the same notions and logic and impose on their constituents a restrictive regime of normative Aboriginality. It finds that contemporary Aboriginal Tasmanian and settler-Australian ‘cultures’ are ambiguously different and that Aborigines are subjectively multiple. Moreover, in their everyday lives they negotiate the small differences that distinguish them from other Australians and thus are able to be both Aborigines and citizens. Contrarily, progressive Aboriginal governance, in schooling and other spheres, makes this demotic negotiation of dual consciousness more difficult to achieve. For their different governing ends, which inhere in having Aborigines choose either Aboriginality or citizenship, both the administrative state and Aboriginal politics manipulate a notional binary difference between a mythic Aboriginality and normal citizenship. Their interests align to press Aborigines into a certain particularity, apparently unable to grow beyond it without losing it, and making it difficult for them to also be participatory citizens. This hegemonic discourse has many Aborigines perform a masquerade of the authorised Aboriginality and in that way problematise the capabilities to negotiate the complexities of being both Aboriginal and Australian that they otherwise employ in their everyday lives. This unnecessarily compromises their relationship with settler-Australia, contributing to a sense of alienation and poor educational and health outcomes. The thesis argues that it is the attempt to simplify actual complexity that has led progressivism to become counter-productive in this way. It considers the national implications of these dynamics and argues that a better negotiation of the tensions between cultural particularity and citizenship relies on the acknowledgement by policy-makers of the interculturality, identity ambiguity, causal multi-dimensionality and agency of the objects of policy that are Aboriginal Australians’ lived reality.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: Copyright © the Author
Date Deposited: 12 Jul 2010 05:30
Last Modified: 24 Apr 2011 05:08
URI: http://eprints.utas.edu.au/id/eprint/9959
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