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The limits of cultural competence: an Indigenous Studies perspective

Carey, M. (2015) The limits of cultural competence: an Indigenous Studies perspective. Higher Education Research & Development . In Press.

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Taking the Universities Australia report, National best practice framework for Indigenous cultural competency in Australian universities (2011) as the starting point for its discussion, this paper examines the applicability of cultural competence in the design and delivery of Australian Indigenous Studies. It argues that both the conceptual underpinnings and the operationalisation of cultural competence necessitate an over-reliance on essentialised notions of Indigeneity, cast in radical opposition to non-Indigeneity, which negate multiple and diverse expressions of Indigenous identity and lived experience. Thus, this approach perpetuates the very colonialist logics Indigenous Studies should endeavour to overcome. Secondly, it argues that cultural competency's emphasis on non-Indigenous self-reflexivity, broadly consistent as it is with both scholarship and praxis in Indigenous Studies, is represented in some of the literature as uncritical deference to an always-unified Indigeneity, thereby exacerbating the original essentialising impulse evident in the cultural competence paradigm. Therefore, this paper proposes that Indigenous Studies should explore the limits of self-reflexivity, with a view to establishing a genuinely anti-colonial/decolonising praxis that incorporates the capacity to negotiate Indigenous intracultural diversity along with other markers for identity.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
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