White teachers and the 'good' governance of Indigenous souls: White governmentality and Ernabella Mission (1937-1971)

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    This paper develops out of research concerning the place of white teachers and social constructions of 'white good' in South Australia's Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands. Here I focus on an era known as the Ernabella 'mission days' (1937-1971), a time when Presbyterian missionaries are typically thought to have provided the Anangu people of the region with an environment in which they were 'free' to remain 'traditional' and take or leave the gift of Western education; Anangu is the name the Indigenous people of the region use selfreferentially. Adopting a genealogical standpoint I interrogate the implications of these claims for Anangu, highlighting ways that Anangu education is nowadays shaped through reference to a golden past. Drawing on memoir and official correspondence, my focus is the white mission teacher's negotiation of discourse and entanglement in reproductions of race. I suggest that discourses of whiteness and progressivism are central to the making of a 'good' white missionary teacher at Ernabella. Within the logic of these discourses, identity is conceived as essential and the 'goodness' of the Ernabella missionary settles quickly into truth. To trouble these relations, I disrupt binary tropes of good or bad whites upon which the white missionary's benevolent moral status frequently relies. Far from ensuring more freedom, this research suggests that the Ernabella missionary was implicated in extending a system of disciplinary control over Anangu bodies, minds and souls, and in securing the racial order through habitual recourse to hegemonic whiteness. I argue that more detailed historical analyses of 'white good' are required if the past is to provide a rigorous basis for rethinking the present.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)209-232
    Number of pages24
    JournalRace, Ethnicity and Education
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


    • Anangu education
    • Genealogy
    • Goodness
    • Identity
    • White teachers
    • Whiteness


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