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

Cressida Fforde*, Lawrence Bamblett, Ray Lovett, Scott Gorringe, Bill Fogarty

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-173
Number of pages12
JournalMedia International Australia
Issue number149
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013

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