Whiteness, Racism and Power

Here’s a typical example of how White people exercise and maintain racism. Kerri-Anne Kennerly flies into a rage about Saturday’s protests, led by Aboriginal people, seeking to change the date of Australia Day and establish systemic reform that includes a Voice to Parliament and Makarrata (treaty). Kennerly taps the table angrily, ‘Has anyone of them been out to the Outback where children, babies, 5 year olds are being raped. Their mothers are being raped. Their sisters are being raped. They get no education. What have you done? Zippo.’

Here, Kennerly evokes the same strawman argument that politicises rape and child abuse that has been used since colonisation to deny Aboriginal people rights. She could be referring to the Northern Territory Intervention, where the army went into remote regions to justify removals of Aboriginal children. The Intervention was NOT based on evidence – that’s already been proven. It has been catastrophic for communities. Continue reading Whiteness, Racism and Power

Roma: Film Review

 

Roma is a beautiful film that covers issues of gender, race, class and violence in Mexico. Dedicated to, and based on, writer/ director Alfonso Cuarón’s childhood nanny and housekeeper “Libo” (Liboria Rodríguez), the film follows Cleo (the sublime Yalitza Aparicio), a young Mixtec woman employed by an affulent Mexican family. She has lived with them since the children’s birth, herself perhaps still in her 20s. She is beloved by the children, but is still treated like a servant.

Her woman employer, Sofia, also tells Cleo she loves her at a pivotal point in the film, even as we see how she flies into rage, diminishes Cleo and blames her for insignificant details. Sofia’s mother also lives in the household, mostly indifferent to Cleo, until tragedy strikes. At one stage, having been on her feet all day working, Cleo sits on the ground, holding the children’s hands, as the rest of the family sits comfortably on the couch watching TV. Sofia then directs Cleo to get her husband a drink after Cleo is settled.

These are women separated by race and class, but who are bound together by the men in their lives who neglect and mistreat them. The men are a wreck. Everyone, including Sofia, call the philandering husband ‘The Doctor,’ his status, vanity and whims disrupting everything around him. Continue reading Roma: Film Review

How to Increase Voluntary Participation in Programs Using Behavioural Insights

Reducing reoffending is a state priority in New South Wales. New sentencing reforms will increase referrals to behaviour change programs or other support services for people who are at high-risk of reoffending. Yet non-mandatory programs can often have low participation rates, particularly when programs are new.

We set out to better understand the social context affecting voluntary participation in programs for people at-risk of reoffending. Here’s how we used behavioural science to promote better service delivery for this vulnerable cohort.

Continue reading How to Increase Voluntary Participation in Programs Using Behavioural Insights

Applying Behavioural Insights to Emergency Decision-Making

Flood-related fatalities have been an ongoing problem in Australia since the early 1900s. Deaths during floods rank second only to heat waves in natural disaster fatalities. Approximately 159 people died from flooding in Australia during the last 15 years, with half (53%) due to driving through floodwater. NSW, together with QLD, represent 74% of flood fatalities. Rural and regional areas in NSW are especially at-risk.

Driving through flood water is a pressing issue, and has been a persistent problem behaviour that has been tough to shift.

The following reflects how the Behavioural Insights Unit (BIU) worked through this behavioural issue, and brainstormed problems, during a recent masterclass with NSW State Emergency Service (NSW SES). Continue reading Applying Behavioural Insights to Emergency Decision-Making

Behavioural Science for Education and Vocational Training

Drawing of a woman tradesperson holding a mobile phone. The text reads: this is what your apprentice is learning this week

Have you ever wondered why people behave in unexpected ways, often against their own interest? This is because many of our social institutions, including the law, education and economy are built around rules that don’t always take into account people’s social context and their motivations when making decisions. Convention in Western societies is that financial incentives and punitive measures (like fines) can incentivise people to do the right thing. Behavioural science research shows this is not always true. In fact, while money and sanctions work in some situations for some groups, most behaviours are not able to be easily changed through cash and penalties. (These can sometimes backfire!)

Behavioural science is the use of behavioural economics, psychology, anthropology, sociology and other social sciences for the purpose of improving behavioural outcomes. Behavioural insights is specifically the application of this science to improve effectiveness for decision-making, public services and policy. Here’s a case study of behavioural insights in action in education and vocational training.

Using fieldwork research and randomised control trials, the Behavioural Insights Unit (BIU) test low-cost behavioural science changes to issues affecting different groups in society.

For example, we know that 48% of apprentices in New South Wales cancel their contracts within the first year, and 77% will cancel within two years. That’s a tremendous personal cost to these students, which also translates to $91 million loss of the state’s economy in cancellations alone, and upwards of $348 million in related revenue. BIU’s research shows apprentices who cancel their employment contracts do so because they often feel they are subjected to tough working conditions for little pay (undertaking menial, repetitive tasks and long hours), receiving little guidance about their progress on the job. Continue reading Behavioural Science for Education and Vocational Training

Colour Wheel of Flavours

In this February 2018 edition of visual sociology, we do fielwork in the Inner West of Sydney, we travel to Melbourne to speak at a panel, and we come back to Sydney for the last gasp of the Lunar New Year and Mardi Gras celebrations.

Inner Western Sydney

Whilst out on fieldwork, the Sociology of Trolleys gets informed! This trolley is a mature age learner who knows it’s never too late to seek out new knowledge. 9 February Continue reading Colour Wheel of Flavours

Racism in Continental Philosophy

Are you okay with a professional organisation that has only ever had two women keynote speakers in 20 years, justified as protecting women from hostility?   

Well, a White academic, Dr Simone Bignall, is justifying the exclusion of Indigenous scholars with this logic. Credit to Dr Chelsea Bond who led a wonderful discussion on anti-Indigenous, anti-Black racism in academia.

A recent article on the Black Issues in Philosophy provides reflections by Afro-Jewish-American philosopher, Professor Lewis Gordon, who reflected on his keynote address to the Australasian Society for Continental Philosophy (ASCP) conference. He addressed Black issues in “Australian Continental Philosophy.“ The conference was hosted in Australia in November 2017. Gordon quotes a critical blog post by Dr Bryan Mukandi, who is a Shona (from Zimbabwe) migrant-Australian. Mukandi criticised the ASCP conference for only ever hosting one person of colour keynote speaker in 20 years, Prof Gordon. (This was later corrected – the conference has had TWO people of colour keynotes. In 20 years). 

Bignall then responds, systematically dismissing Mukandi’s critique of racial exclusion. Her argument is possibly one of the most apt illustrations of racism in academia. Bignall begins by shielding herself against charges of racism by saying she’s worked "alongside Indigenous academics and activists.” She then argues White Continental Philosophers can’t find work easily, and this makes their field difficult. She praises the White keynotes who have spoken at the ASCP conferences in the past. 

Bignall presents a lengthy criticism of Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson, one of Australia’s most important academics, and an Aboriginal woman who reframed postcolonialism and feminism through a lens of Aboriginal womanhood. Bignall writes that Prof Moreton-Robinson has never been invited to be a keynote because she is not a continental philosopher, and because, in Bignall’s words, Prof Moreton-Robinson, “considers ‘Western thought’ in its entirety as party to colonial enterprise of individualist White possession." 

Bignall argues White academics are "diverse,” while maintaining the idea that White people shouldn’t have to deal with Aboriginal and other Black academics’ critiques of their field. She writes:

As part of a responsible approach to equity and diversity considerations, the ASCP holds that it is not uncomplicatedly appropriate or desirable for conference organizers to request the participation of Black or Indigenous speakers who engage peripherally with Continental thought but whose interests and specific expertise lies with alternative philosophical traditions. This would, of course, fail to meet the requirements of a keynote speaker at a meeting of expert Continental Philosophers. But, equally worrying, it also would put such speakers in the unenviable and unfair position of having to defend themselves against a large audience of such experts; or else require them to engage more fully with Continental European thought than they actually wish to or have use for.

To put it another way: it would go against equity and diversity to invite a renowned Indigenous feminist. And the ASCP would be an inhospitable place for “non-experts.”

Academic theories are porous. Many disciplines will invite keynotes from other fields. The idea that Indigenous academics and other Black theorists can’t be invited to a conference because they’re not a continental philosopher does not hold. Australian continental philosophy is not welcoming of Black theorists, and does not produce enough Black graduates, so there is a cycle of exclusion. It means that this sub-field is basically just White people talking to other White people about colonialism, in a way that maintains Whiteness.  

Read Prof Gordon’s article and Dr Bignall’s response, with a counter-response by Dr Mukandi at the end.

Please also see Dr Chelsea Bond’s thread where I first found this debacle. Her insights as an Aboriginal woman academic are incredibly relevant to all discplinary fields. Dr Bond begins here, writing: 

“Is Bignall really saying that our leading scholars are just fringe dwellers 2 white knowing? Defending white virtue while speaking 4 the native was so Becky’esque.” 


Image: APA Blog. [Features two columns on either side of the words “Black issues in philosophy.” The columns are in the colours of the South African flag, green, yellow, blue and red.]

Colonial Sugar

“Colonial Sugar,” Tracey Moffatt and Jasmine Togo-Brisby, exhibition at the City Gallery Wellington. From 1863 to 1904, the Queensland government in Australia enslaved at least 62,000 people from the Pacific to fuel production in its prosperous sugarcane plantations. Continue reading Colonial Sugar

Out in the Field

Visual sociology of my travels around the North and South Coast of New South Wales for fieldwork and some overnight training, from early October to the end of November 2017.

During the week, I was doing fieldwork research and look at all the trolleys I saw in one day! It was a Sociology Of Trolleys bonanza. 7 October 2017

Continue reading Out in the Field

Justice for Elijah

14 year old Elijah Doughty was killed by a White man who only received 3 years backdated to his arrest. A jury acquitted him of manslaughter charges, despite CCTV footage and his admission that he went looking for Elijah thinking he had stolen a junk bike that the killer admits had no sentimental value. Meanwhile Elijah’s motorbikes had been confiscated by police as they believed them stolen; however this was false and the bikes were returned to Doughty family after Elijah’s death. Regardless, no person deserves to die, let alone over a dispute. He’ll likely be free in February. This is sooner than an Aboriginal person protesting Elijah’s death who was charged with property damage. Continue reading Justice for Elijah