The Invisible Whiteness of Being: the place of Whiteness in Women's Discourses in Aotearoa/New Zealand and some implications for Antiracist Education
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis asks two central questions. First, what is the range of racialised discourses that constitute the subjectivities of some Pakeha ('white'/European) women? Second, can an examination of racialised discourses be useful for present social justice and antiracist pedagogy? The research examines and analyses a range of discourses of Whiteness that contribute to the constitution of contemporary Pakeha women as racialised subjects. Central to the thesis is an analysis of dominant discourses and the contemporary challenges that analyses of racism and aspects of identification present in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The study is qualitative and draws on insights from discourse analysis theory, critical Whiteness theory and feminist approaches to theories on racism and 'white' supremacy. The analysis is located in the historicised context of contemporary Aotearoa/New Zealand where a Treaty, Te Tiriti O Waitangi, which was signed by some hapu, the tangata whenua of Aotearoa, and representatives of the British Crown in 1840, underpins current socio-cultural politics of biculturalism. The thesis argues/contends that racialised discourses, in particular various discourses of Whiteness are available to contemporary Pakeha women. The analysis is grounded in both a preliminary focus group and individual interviews of 28 Pakeha women ranging in age from 24 to 86 years, the majority of whom were aged between 40 and 55 years. With few exceptions, participants revealed that they were constituted within discourses of Whiteness through their communication choices and discursive strategies in the interviews in two distinct ways: firstly in their perceptions expressed in their narratives and recollections, and secondly in the discursive forms used in participants' interactions during the focus group and interviews. These 28 women, some of whom had participated in antiracist education such as Treaty of Waitangi workshops, utilised discourses that exposed the pervasiveness and significance of racialised discourses as they attempted express how they learned to be 'white'. Participants maintained and reproduced discourses of Whiteness that had gendered and some class influences contained in their perceptions, talk and significantly in their silences. The analysis shows how remnants of essentialist ideologies of 'race' based in the nineteenth century imperialism are constantly reworked and are seemingly invisible to those constituted within these racialised discourses, apparently giving these outdated representations no chance to fade away. Based on the analysis, critical pedagogies of Whiteness in education that incorporate an epistemic approach are suggested, which have the potential to facilitate Pakeha women's ability to conceptualise their racialised discursive location. As an outcome of this understanding, the thesis maintains that Pakeha will have the capability to strategically reconceptualise their discursive constitution in order to address the complex forms of identity, understanding of difference and representation. Furthermore, these reconceptualisations have the potential to reveal the central relationship between dominant discursive formulations and social norms and structures, a vital constituent in contemporary social justice education.