Whiteness and Reconciliation: A Discursive Analysis


Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW, 2109, Australia, E-mail: asaxton@psy.mq.edu.au


For the past decade, reconciliation has been an issue for contemporary debate in Australia. A discursive approach (Potter & Wetherell, 1987) was employed in this study to examine the operation of whiteness as a normative framework for Indigenous and non-indigenous relations and reconciliation in Australia. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with young Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians concerning their understanding and experience of reconciliation. The analysis identified that reconciliation in Australia was located within a context in which race and racism were important considerations and the first part of this paper examines how participants managed the issue of race in Australian society. It was demonstrated that race marked the lives of Indigenous people while “whiteness” as race remained uninterrogated. Talk around race drew on discursive resources that denied the impact of racism and deracialised difference. In particular, reconciliation was framed in a discursive repertoire of “common humanity” rather than difference. The implications of this position were discussed in relation to participants' construction of reconciliation and their understandings of their role in the reconciliation process.