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AIS2055 - Power, Knowledge, Aborigines: Between Representation and Reality

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: Mr Barry Judd and Stephen Pritchard


Clayton First semester 2007 (Day)


This unit critically examines the ability of white Australia to know Aborigines through the discursive power of representation. This unit explores white Australia's attempt to represent Aborigines, moving beyond the historical, political and legal 'facts' of the colonial encounter to address the inherent theoretical problems of 'talking' about and for Australia's Indigenous peoples. Topics covered include representation of Aborigines in media, history, sport, culture, public administration and law. The unit is self reflexive and critically assesses way the Western academy has claimed to possess knowledge about Aborigines and authority over Aboriginal lives.


This unit aims to provide students with an understanding of contemporary relationships between Aborigines and white Australia through a critical examination of how white Australia claims to "know" Aboriginal people, cultures and history. The unit will introduce students to the problematic of representation and the theoretical and practical influence representational constructs have exerted in shaping the colonial encounter between Aborigines and white Australia. On successful completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate, both orally and in writing an appreciation of the broad social, cultural and historical context in which contemporary dialogues between Aborigines and white Australia operate.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of the key theoretical frameworks through which white Australia claims "knowledge" about and "power" over Aboriginal peoples and cultures.
  3. Describe and critically assess the central themes and issues that have shaped white Australian "knowledge" about Aboriginal peoples and cultures.
  4. Acknowledge and critically examine the difference between white Australia's representational constructs of Aborigines and the historic and contemporary realities of Australia's Indigenous peoples'.
  5. Acknowledge and critically examine the power and privilege of "whiteness" in contemporary Australian society.
  6. Demonstrate the various study skills and techniques necessary to successfully complete this unit and other Indigenous Studies units.


Oral seminar presentation: 10%;
Exploratory Exercise related to oral seminar presentation: (1500 words) 20%;
Research Essay 3000 words: 70%.

Contact hours

One x 2 hour seminar/week


Any first year Arts sequence or permission of Undergraduate Co-ordinator