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The bureaucratic construction of Aborigines: A textual and discourse analysis

Henderson, Ian J. (1992) The bureaucratic construction of Aborigines: A textual and discourse analysis. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Many discourses contribute to the definition of 'the Aborigine' including anthropology, sociology, media, health, statistics, etc. This dissertation explores the way the bureaucratic discourse has constructed the 'Aborigine' rendering them bureaucratically intelligible, and facilitating their control. A study of three Department of Native Affairs files of the 1940's, reveals a 'documentary reality' which is read as a 'situational reality'.

Informed by the values, morality and mores of the Judaeo/Christian protestant ethic, the bureaucracy of the 1940's constructed the Aborigine to reflect these norms. Instances of this are highlighted in the files studied. To reveal the white construction of Aboriginality, theories of 'documentary reality' and discourse analysis are applied to the texts, enabling a deconstruction and exposure of the manner in which this construction was maintained. Also demonstrated is the confining and regulating nature of the bureaucracy.

Whilst these texts were authored some forty five years ago, they bear an uncanny resemblance to present day events. Bureaucratic intervention in negotiations for mining rights continues to indicate a "big brother" attitude founded on racist values. Suggestions are made as to how the bureaucratic/Aboriginal dichotomy may be remedied.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Harris, Patricia
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