Friday, March 25, 2011

Why do we constantly change terminologies for Aboriginal issues in Academia?

Within society and, in particular, academia there is a constant need to undergo terminology shifts, or to use a popular education term - we constantly change a lot of our language, and particularly our metalanguage.

In terms of what has happened to the Traditional Custodians of this land, we have undergone some remarkably distinct terminology shifts in regards to what has happened in our history and WHO it has happened to, and what the terminologies reflects in terms of the attitudes of the authors and their intended audiences.

The Claiming/Settling/Colonisation/Protection/Assimilation/Invasion/Oppression/Dispossession/Regulation and Control/Genocide/Attempted genocide/Intervention/Land Rights/Self Determination/Mutual Obligation/Sovereignty OF natives/aborigines/savages/primitives/aboriginals/Aborigines/Aboriginals/Aboriginal people/Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people/Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples/ATSI people/indigenous people/Indigenous people/Koori/Murri/Gamilaroi etc...

There are many obvious & subtle reasons for these changes and many of these changes reflect significantly distinct attitudes, perspectives and purposes. But more commonly today within academia we are shifting from 'focus' to 'foci' or introducing new phrasing for emphasised, updated and occassionally improved versions of old ideas - Indigenisation of the Curriculum, Indigenists...Quality Teaching, Cultural Competency (rather than Awareness) which usually also fall under common sense, decency, wisdom....
This to many sounds unnecessary and pompous, but it actually reflects a very real and dangerous reality that lies that at the heart of modern academia:

Any terms or phrases, regardless of their true semantics or intentions, quickly grow to reflect the sentiments of the people who use them. The reason 'Abo' is unacceptable while 'Aussie' is fine is to do with how they are used, not that they are abbreviations or slang. As I have said in a previous blog - if people had originally used 'Abo' in the context of "I hope my daughter settles down with a nice Abo" rather than "We Hate Abos", I doubt it would today be considered a derogatory term.

So in academia when a term becomes tainted by the reality that many people still hold negative views towards Aboriginal people (or whatever the particular issue in quesion may be) we search to find a new terminology that is fresh and untainted rather than change the fact that racism is rife within academia.

A rose by any other name... it works exactly the same for racist shit! It is still shit no matter what we call it! Land Rights are awesome words, and we have Lands Rights Acts in OZ - but Aboriginal people do not have Land Rights... A contract is only good as the intentions to keep it. If we were serious about Aboriginal Rights, the phrasing wouldn't matter - we would use common sense and wisdom to resolve any problems with the semantics - we would just do it, because it is the right thing to do. Until that is our attitude, expect to see endless debates about terminology and semantics; and expect to find that new terminologies do not bring with them attitudinal changes if the changes are introduced from the top down rather than beginning from the bottom-up.

No comments:

Post a Comment