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Session 5: ‘ Culture’ and Indigenous Disadvantage.

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1 Session 5: ‘ Culture’ and Indigenous Disadvantage

2 Critique exercise What constructions of culture are being used in your example?

3 Dimensions of critique   Null hypothesis: “Culture is what people do” We put boundaries or labels on peoples’ behaviour in various ways that can be deconstructed.   Structure and agency   Time   Morality   Authenticity   Sameness and difference

4 Example   Smith BMJ 2003   Indigenous culture in harmony with the environment, in opposition to Westerners   Death and disease due to “deep spiritual oppression” and cultural subjugation   Improved health from cultural restoration, not improved health services   Cultural restoration also means control of health services

5 Four resources   Health Promotion Training Manual 1989   Pearson 2000   Trudgen 2000   Diabetic story 2004


7 Three common constructions of culture   Cultural loss   Cultural non-adaptation/rigidity   Cultural maladaptation

8 Cultural loss   Colonisation has robbed Indigenous people of their culture through loss of land, displacement to large settlements, stolen children and indoctrination with Western values   This vacuum of culture is filled with intergenerational grief and depression that lead to social problems   Culture is the answers to social problems, by improving self- esteem and identity and restoring social orders where young people respect and obey elders   To improve Indigenous health we must encourage the restoration of Indigenous cultures

9 Cultural non-adaptation/rigidity   Indigenous culture is stuck in a pre-colonial time which is no longer appropriate for the modern world   Elements that were good (e.g. sharing resources) are now dysfunctional in the modern context (e.g. no accumulation of resources, dependent kinship relationship with government)   Culture unable to keep up with the rapid changes brought about by colonisation   The converse of this is cultural survival – celebrated by Indigenous people and many non-Indigenous people

10 Cultural maladaptation/failed acculturation   Indigenous culture has had maladaptive responses to colonisation   Rather than develop civil society in place of kinship network, Indigenous cultures have taken on the worst of Western culture   Thus alcoholism, domestic violence, gambling, petrol sniffing, fast food etc. are the predominant elements of Western society that have been adopted


12   Where do terms like self-determination, social capital and community capacity fit in here?   Which constructions of culture do they use?

13 Welfare dependency   Indigenous people have become dependent on welfare and government programs, and have no ability or desire to become economically independent   This is phrased alternatively as ‘having it too easy’, or ‘being inflicted with ongoing colonisation by the government that robs them of self-reliance,’ the latter expressed in confusing phrases like ‘the right to take responsibility’ (Pearson)

14 Culture as difference/cultural fragility   Governments and service providers have not taken heed of the cultural differences of Indigenous people   Indigenous people are inherently different from other people by virtue of their culture – if programs are designed in a culturally-appropriate way (timelines, settings, decision-making structures, kinship, family sizes, language, patterns of mobility, cultural safety etc) they will work   Otherwise they will inflict additional damage on communities

15 Universal human rights/ anti-alterity, culture as hobby/recreation   The role of culture has been vastly overestimated. Indigenous people want the same as the rest of us – nice house and car, healthy kids, regular income, enjoyable leisure time   We need to stop being hamstrung by political correctness and go out there and give people the information & skills they need to live healthy and happy lives   If communities are hiding problems like child sexual abuse behind, say, promised marriages, we must help those children   Powerful Indigenous people will try to save their skin like anybody else but this is no excuse for allowing wrongs to continue

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