One of the biggest debates in Australian Indigenous education today revolves around the many contested and competing ways of knowing by and about Indigenous cultures and the representation of Indigenous knowledges. Using Bakhtin's theories of dialogue and voice, my concern in this thesis is to explore the polyphonic nature of power relations, performance roles and pedagogical texts in the context of teaching and learning Indigenous Australian women's music and dance. In this discussion, I will focus on my experiences as a lecturer in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit at the University of Queensland and my involvement in this educational setting with students and guest lecturers/performers. Like a field experience, the performance classroom will be examined as a potential site or as hooks suggests, a "location of possibility" (1994, p.207), for disturbing and dislocating dominant modes of representation of Indigenous women's performance through the construction, mediation and negotiation of Indigenous knowledge from and between both non-Indigenous and Indigenous voices. The hypothesis of this study is that the performance of multiple texts as pedagogical tools in the ANTH2120 classroom provides an avenue for engaging in anti-racist teaching and learning practice.
This thesis is divided into four parts. Part one (Chapters one, two, three and four) sets the scene. Chapter one introduces the study, poses research questions and sets up my personal and political agenda. Chapter two tells my story and provides a narrative of how I came to be in the position of white representing black. Chapter three describes a pilot study I conducted in 1999 that provided the impetus for this research project and in Chapter four I outline the theoretical framework that informs this study.
Part two (Chapters five and six) identifies the students and performers who participated in the ANTH2120 classroom. In Chapter five I deconstruct the subject position "ANTH2120 student" as young, white and female to ascertain who learns and why they want to learn about Indigenous Australian women's performance practice. Chapter six turns attention to the performers who were involved in the teaching and learning process. Here I first discuss the style of performance ethnography I have adopted and then examine each performance held in the ANTH2120 classroom in 2000 and 2001.
Part three (Chapters seven and eight) analyses specific teaching and learning issues relevant to understanding the complexities of the ANTH2120 classroom. In each of these chapters I first introduce the issue via an exploration of relevant theory and second use the literary convention of a playlet between myself, the students, the performers and other academics to more fully explore the issues raised. In Chapter seven I use a Bakhtinian approach to examine the type of dialogue that takes place in the context of ANTH2120 and turn my analytical gaze to laying bare issues of power, authority and representation. Chapter eight then examines the concept of the body in relation to whiteness, black identity, embodiment and embodied learning. Finally, Part four (Chapter nine) presents conclusions and shows that the process of becoming a singing and dancing scholar in the classroom opens up the possibility of engagement with and empowerment of Indigenous Australian performance and performers.