‘White on White’: A Transformative Analysis of Whiteness and Diversity Education

Hambel, Sabrina Michelle (2007). ‘White on White’: A Transformative Analysis of Whiteness and Diversity Education PhD Thesis, School of Education , University of Queensland.

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Author Hambel, Sabrina Michelle
Thesis Title ‘White on White’: A Transformative Analysis of Whiteness and Diversity Education
School, Centre or Institute School of Education
Institution University of Queensland
Publication date 2007
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Ivana Milojevic
Abstract/Summary In this thesis, the intersection of whiteness and diversity education in Australia is investigated through a transformative analysis aimed at fostering social change. Primarily, the examination focuses on challenging whiteness and transforming white student identities through education policy and practice, issues that have not been widely explored previously in the Australian context. Thus, this thesis has not only been developed to contribute to the scope of research-based knowledge but to (re)construct research as a form of social action. Many researchers in the area of critical race and whiteness studies assert that whiteness, as invisiblised through race hegemony and a focus on racial, ethnic, and cultural ‘others’, has played a significant role in the development of ‘mainstream’ Australian culture, including the education system. However, some researchers and educators have begun the process of challenging and transforming schooling practices that reproduce whiteness. Most notably, critical / critical race frameworks of diversity education, which centre on dialogue, identity transformation, and social action that visibilises and displaces whiteness, have been advocated. Through focusing on these more critical frameworks, this thesis investigates how issues of race and whiteness are reproduced and / or challenged through policy documents and classroom practices described, in the context of interactive interviews, by mostly white primary school teachers of mostly white students. The first three chapters introduce and frame the thesis through a discussion of current literature on race, whiteness, and diversity education, particularly in Australia. Chapter 1 explains why the study is significant and defines the main constructs of the thesis. It also includes a more extensive outline of the layout of the thesis. In Chapter 2, the theoretical framework is described, including constructionism and ethics, critical race theory, and whiteness studies. Chapter 3 then applies the ‘lens’ of the theoretical framework to reviewing diversity education research through a socio-historic discussion of various frameworks. In this chapter, critical race / critical approaches to diversity education are given more attention. Next, Chapter 4 describes the methodology of the thesis, and impact of the theoretical ‘lens’ on both the research methods and analysis. Key in this chapter is the discussion of critical discourse analysis as adapted for the purposes of this study. Through focusing on how language patterns in the policy documents and descriptions of classroom practices by teachers reflect various ideologies, this analytical approach is useful in understanding how race and whiteness hegemony is reproduced and / or challenged. In Chapters 5 through 8, the data are analysed. Chapter 5 examines the policy documents, mostly through investigating policies in the State of Queensland, which is where this study has taken place. This chapter addresses the question of how and for whom policies describe and explain diversity education. Chapter 6 builds on the previous discussion by analysing the language patterns and ideologies evident in teachers’ descriptions of their classroom practices. This chapter addresses two research questions: how teachers describe and explain diversity education; and how the teachers’ descriptions / explanations coincide with those in the policy documents. Then, Chapter 7 expands the study further through examining how diversity education is applied to the teaching of white students, addressing the question of for whom do teachers describe and explain diversity education. Next, Chapter 8 hones in on issues of whiteness, through addressing the question of how teachers address whiteness through diversity education. Lastly, Chapter 9 summarises and concludes the thesis, describing the limitations of the study and directions for future research. In all three of the chapters that examine the teachers’ descriptions / explanations as evident in interactive interviews, particular excerpts were selected partly to illustrate the scope of teachers’ language patterns but mainly to demonstrate instances of ideological transformation. Often through using critical race / critical discourse, these teachers described strategies that aim to encourage students to understand the impact of race and whiteness in their own lives and in their larger communities. From media analyses about whose views are dominant / marginalised in reports of refugee detention centres to conversations about the impact of white privilege on renting a house, they discuss a variety of practices supported by current researchers. Additionally, some teachers explained that they actively challenge white privilege through social justice projects and involvement in the community. Although the educational practices described by these teachers could be enhanced through more extensive understandings of whiteness, they form an important step toward a transformative future in Australia.

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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 15:27:03 EST