‘Marking’ the white terrain in indigenous health research: literature review
Article first published online: 3 JAN 2008
Journal of Advanced Nursing
Volume 61, Issue 2, pages 126–133, January 2008
How to Cite
Martin-McDonald, K. and McCarthy, A. (2008), ‘Marking’ the white terrain in indigenous health research: literature review. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 61: 126–133. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2007.04438.x
- Issue published online: 3 JAN 2008
- Article first published online: 3 JAN 2008
- Accepted for publication 25 July 2007
- indigenous communities;
- literature review;
Title. ‘Marking’ the white terrain in indigenous health research: literature review
Aim. This paper is a report of a literature review of the concept of whiteness in relation to research partnerships with indigenous Australian healthcare professionals, participants and community members.
Background. As researchers, we were confronted with the visibility of our whiteness and the oppressive, discriminating history on our indigenous partners wrought by the colour of our skin. This personal discord began an intensely provocative, reflective journey accompanied by a search of the literature on ‘whiteness’.
Methods. The EBSCOhost, InfoTrac, Blackwell Synergy, ScienceDirect, SAGE Full-Text Collections and CINAHL databases were searched in 2004. The primary keywords were ‘whiteness’, ‘white studies’ and ‘white privilege’. Secondary keywords: ‘culture’, ‘race’, ‘racism’, ‘indigenous’, ‘indigenous communities’, ‘race relations’ and ‘colonialism’. No date restrictions were imposed, but most of the literature dated from the 1990s.
Findings. Exposure to the literature on ‘whiteness’ and the experience of working with indigenous Australians challenged us to recognize and address the privilege and power historically and contemporaneously conferred on us as white women. Largely invisible to white people is the structural advantage conferred by the ‘white’ standpoint and the set of ‘unmarked’ cultural practices that are usually set as the default positioning.
Conclusion. To achieve useful research outcomes that influence the well-being of indigenous populations necessitates that non-indigenous researchers and healthcare providers stringently examine their own racial and social positioning. Without doing this we, consciously or otherwise, uphold white hegemony and racialist inequality.