Australian citizenship : a genealogy tracing the descent of discourse 1946-2007

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This thesis is a genealogy which traces changes to the discourse of Australian citizenship. These changes were traced in the Australia Day (i.e., January 26) and January 27 editions of The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) and The Sun Herald (SH) from 1946 – 2007. The dissertation used Foucault’s (1980; 1991a; 1991d; 1991e; 1998; 2002a; 2006b) genealogy supplemented with his archaeological method to provide an analysis of the discourse of Australian citizenship. The analysis was conducted by creating an archive of newspaper texts that related to Australian citizenship discourse. This archive represents the body of knowledge about citizenship as published in the specified print media and reflects the systems of thought that circulated the discourse at particular points in time. The archived newspaper texts related to Australian citizenship discourse contain traces of the social, political, cultural and economic beliefs and values of Australian citizens. The analysed texts were found in headlines, reports, editorials, opinion pieces, annotated photographs and letters to the editor that made-up the day-to-day history of the Australia Day editions. The texts that were produced in this narration in the SMH have provided data in the form of specific language use that defines the discourse of citizenship over the 62 year period. The language of these texts as reported in the print media represents the understandings of citizenship at particular times and also the discursive responses to contingent factors conditioning citizenship discourse including globalisation, localisation and neo-liberalism. The research links with Foucault’s (1980; 1991a; 1991d; 1991e; 1998; 2002a; 2006b) findings that the analysis of discourse is fundamental for understanding the nature of reality. This reality reported in this dissertation indicates a discourse that has changed and transformed over the analysed period of time. The discourse of citizenship has developed through the flow of rules and regulations that prohibit and permit what can and cannot be said, thought or spoken about citizenship at particular points in time. This form of normative thought, action and speech is culturally constructed and has been traced in the discourse through a mapping of specific language use related to understandings of citizenship. These types of knowledge constructions are artefacts of culture and reinforce existing power relations. This study has attempted to unmask these relations of power to question the rationality of the practices and experiences of Australian citizenship. The genealogical method allows for the distillation of citizenship discourse as a history of social and political truths as seen in the print media from 1946 – 2007. The genealogy of Australian citizenship presented in this dissertation lays bare the characteristic forms of power/knowledge manifested in the discourse over the post-World War Two period of Australian history to show systems of thought pertaining to citizenship. By doing so it shows that current citizenship practices are not the result of historical inevitabilities but rather the result of the interplay of contingencies. By emphasising citizenship in this way the thesis offers insights into how it can be refashioned to offer greater individual freedom through an understanding of the games of truth that are played throughout all levels of society. The manifestation of power/knowledge in the discourse is further evidence that citizens exist in relations of power. These manifestations produced five distinct thematic discursivities. I labelled them as, ‘The silencing of Aboriginal concerns 1946 – 1969, Authorised voices question the acceptance of poverty and racism 1969 – 1980, Relations of power between Aboriginal Australians and whites 1981 – 1988, Relations of power between Asian immigrants and whites 1989 – 1996, The struggle of cultural dominations 1997 – 2007’. In particular, a discontinuity was identified during the period Relations of power between Aboriginal Australians and whites 1981 – 1988. From this time in the discourse Indigenous Australians were permitted to criticise their treatment by whites. Subsequently this permission has become embedded in systems of thought. This thesis gives details of the products of the genealogical method related to the discourse of citizenship. It pinpoints the moments when individuals and social, cultural, economic and political groups played roles in the production, reproduction and transmission of truth from 1946 - 2007. Based on the products of the research it creates recommendations for minimising the potential dominations of social and political truths. It also suggests ways to re-think Australian citizenship to afford greater freedoms for individual thought, speech and action.
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