Discourse, deficit and identity: Aboriginality, the race paradigm and the language of representation in contemporary Australia




Fforde, Cressida
Bamblett, Lawrence
Lovett, Raymond
Gorringe, Scott
Fogarty, William

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Griffith University


Deficit discourse is expressed in a mode of language that consistently frames Aboriginal identity in a narrative of deficiency. It is interwoven with notions of 'authenticity', which in turn adhere to models of identity still embedded within the race paradigm, suffering from all of its constraints but perniciously benefiting from all of its tenacity. Recent work shows that deficit discourse surrounding Aboriginality is intricately entwined within and across different sites of representation, policy and expression, and is active both within and outside Indigenous Australia. It thus appears to exhibit all the characteristics of what Foucault has termed a discursive formation, and its analysis requires a multi-disciplinary approach. Developing research overseas on the prevalence and social impact of deficit discourse indicates a significant link between discourse surrounding indigeneity and outcomes for indigenous peoples. However, while there is emerging work in this field in Aboriginal education, as well as a growing understanding of the social impact of related behaviours such as lateral violence, the influence of deficit discourse is significantly under-theorised and little understood in the Indigenous Australian context. This article will problematise the issues and explore theory and methods for change.





Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy


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