← Philament 4: Untitled

Benevolence and the Management of Stake

On Being ‘Good White People’

Damien Riggs


Preface

In taking up the theme ‘untitled’ in this paper, I focus on one particular site where naming (or the lack thereof) constitutes a network of power relations that construct certain subject positions as normative through their very ‘untitledness.’ I am referring here to whiteness, and the ways in which we as white people [1] are so rarely aware of our racialised subject positions, and how this unawareness works to justify the hegemony of whiteness in Australia by denying white race privilege. [2] Thus, whilst whiteness is painfully visible to those people who have been dispossessed and rendered objects of genocidal practices, whiteness—or more specifically white race privilege—continues to be routinely ignored as a site of power in Australia that is based upon the denial of Indigenous sovereignty. Thus, as Richard Dyer suggests, whiteness is rendered invisible at the very moment that it is made normative. [3] This structuring paradox shapes the ways in which the white Australian nation engages with Indigenous sovereignty, specifically, as it justifies white belonging through recourse to notions of a ‘national good.’

In taking this up as a point of deconstruction, the notion of untitled thus works to effectively locate that which is often left unsaid. In pointing towards the ‘unmarked status’ of whiteness (in white discourse) I hope to problematise its status as untitled. In naming whiteness as a site of oppression, I seek to explore how, rather than simply where whiteness is located. [4] Through focusing on some of the ways in which whiteness is routinely explained away, I hope to contribute to the ongoing problematisation of whiteness as an a priori right to power, and instead to look at its contingency upon practices of imperialism and colonisation. In this way the ‘untitled status’ of whiteness is rendered more visibly a practice of control, whereby both the white nation and white people attempt to manage how Indigenous sovereignty is seen. Yet, as I hope to demonstrate throughout this paper, our relationship to Indigenous sovereignty is not something that we as white people can choose—it is something that is foundational to our attempts at belonging in this country. [5] In order to outline more clearly how Indigenous sovereignty both precedes and exceeds white belonging, I start off by responding to a challenge made by Indigenous educator and activist Lilla Watson, from a paper that is, aptly, ‘Untitled.’

Introduction

If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, let’s work together.[6]

I have this quote on my refrigerator, and a few months ago a close friend of mine noticed it, and after reading it remarked quite indignantly, ‘well, she’s a rude bitch!’ When I asked her why, she said that she felt it was very ungrateful for the writer to refuse help, and that ‘comments like that will only offend people and discourage them from helping.’ This response to the sovereignty of an Indigenous person suggested to me that the ‘benevolent acts’ of white people could be an important site for looking at how whiteness is positioned as normative through the construction of Indigenous people as passive objects. [7] Indeed, as the opening quote from Lilla Watson suggests, the well-meaning intentions of those of us working in the area of anti-racism are rendered problematic when viewed within the broader framework of colonisation. Thus, as Jane Samson proposes in her research on imperialism and the work of white missionaries: “one person’s humanitarian intervention is another’s neocolonialism.” [8]

With this in mind, I seek to demonstrate two key points in relation to discourses of benevolence: 1) that performances of the subject position ‘good white person’ work to manage our stake as white people in relation to racialised practices, and 2) that benevolence as a nationalist practice works to shore up the illusion of white sovereignty, and thus evidences an attempt to manage the position of the racialised other within white systems of representation. Through the use of two extracts of talk taken from a documentary screened in Australia entitled Whiteys Like Us, [9] I hope to demonstrate how two seemingly disparate practices of benevolence produce similar rhetorical effects. As will become apparent throughout this paper, such discourses of benevolence evidence what Martha Augoustinos and myself have termed elsewhere the ‘anxiety of whiteness’ [10] : the lack of, and longing for, a foundational justification for white belonging in this country. With this goal in mind, I employ a combination of psychoanalysis and discursive psychology to better understand the practices of nationalism that shape the hegemony of whiteness in Australia, which I would suggest inform practices of benevolence.

In addition to outlining some of the discourses of benevolence that would appear to inform the talk of participants in the Whiteys Like Us documentary, I also pay attention to the implications of any analysis of white benevolence for the anti-racist practices of white people in Australia. Thus rather than perpetuating the notion that there are ‘good white anti-racists’ and ‘bad white racists,’ I seek to explore the mutuality of these terms, and thus recognise how all white people are implicated in systems of oppression that shape the white Australian nation. To this end, I outline some suggestions for how we as white people working within the area of whiteness studies may engender a more transparent, reflexive account of our own work. In particular, I propose that our engagement with whiteness must necessarily be approached through our relationship to Indigenous sovereignty, [11] a fact that discourses of benevolence routinely repress. From this perspective, then, the goal becomes a critical unsettling of our claims to belonging as white people in Australia, rather than perpetuating the myth that our ‘anti-racist practice’ somehow puts us outside of the ongoing histories of white colonial violence.

Psychoanalysis and the National Good

In utilising psychoanalysis as a ‘postcolonising reading practice,’ I believe that it is important to recognise both the exclusionary practices that have shaped discourses of psychoanalysis and the ways in which these very practices make it useful for understanding colonisation in Australia. [12] To explain further: as a site located within a particular historical context, and thus within a network of social and ideological practices, psychoanalysis may be understood as an exposition of the ways in which colonisation is enacted on a number of levels. [13] First, it attempts to make evident the cultural binaries of self and other that shape white subjectivities in colonial nations. Second, it provides a ‘map’ of the social practices that have shaped white dominance as it arises between individuals. And finally, following Michael Billig, I would suggest that psychoanalysis is a linguistic practice that is drawn upon to manage ‘difficult topics’ (such as racism) in everyday talk. [14] Thus I understand psychoanalysis as a social practice, rather than as something that occurs ‘within people’s heads.’

In the Australian context more specifically, the construction of Indigenous people as the racialised other would appear to rest upon similar notions of ‘us and them’ as those structuring psychoanalytic understandings of subjectification. I would thus suggest that as two thoroughly social practices, colonisation and psychoanalysis may be used to better understand one another; postcolonial readings of psychoanalysis may point towards the social practices that have shaped the formation of psychoanalysis, and conversely, psychoanalytic understandings may be used to examine the practices of colonialism. [15] In this way, a discursive psychoanalytic approach to understanding racism may allow for a more transparent rendering of whiteness as a practice of exclusion. In other words, by understanding how the hegemony of whiteness in Australia is contingent upon the negation of Indigenous sovereignty, it may be possible to more clearly understand the ways in which white talk around race works to manage (though enactments of repression and projection) our problematic location within this country. Thus, by looking at how psychoanalysis is used as a linguistic practice, I would suggest that we may better understand how racism structures the talk of all white people in Australia, rather than as being the work of “evil racists.” [16]

In regards to understanding benevolence within a discursive psychoanalytic framework, I take as useful the work of Jennifer Rutherford and Ghassan Hage, in their suggestion that understandings of white nationalism are constructed through discourses of white good. [17] Both Rutherford and Hage suggest that enactments of the subject position ‘good white person’ work to repress histories of genocide and dispossession by positioning white Australians as holders of the national good. Thus the continual repetition of such acts of repression is required in order to manage the unsettling that is produced when Indigenous people speak back about their own experiences of colonisation. Yet Hage suggests that it is precisely at this point where those constructed as the racialised other challenge the hegemony of whiteness that the moral imperative of the good nation is reasserted. Likewise, Rutherford proposes that enactments of white morality are always already enactments of white aggression, as attempts at maintaining white dominance and reasserting an a priori right to white sovereignty. [18] As a result, this aggression is projected outside of whiteness. The construction of Indigenous people as being a threat to the safety of white people, communities and cultures is a typical example of this. [19] Yet, following Freud, I would suggest that the uncanny effects that are produced when the white nation attempts to pass off histories of white violence as a natural response to the threat of Indigenous violence demonstrate the paradoxical nature of white belonging in this country. [20] As I will now discuss, these enactments of repression and projection are evident in the discourses of benevolence that are often drawn upon by us as white people in Australia.

The Racialised Practices of Benevolence

As I have already indicated, benevolence produces a number of rhetorical effects in relation to white belonging in Australia. Historically, benevolence has been employed as a means to justify white invasion. For example, the notion of ‘moral uplift’ was utilised to create a ‘need’ for whites to engage in ‘saving the native.’ [21] In this way, the destruction or denial of Indigenous cultures was justified rhetorically through recourse to the ‘civilising mission’—it was the ‘white person’s burden’ to bring religion (and thus presumably ‘culture’) to Indigenous people. Yet, I would suggest that such practices are not simply the product of the times in which they occurred. Rather, they are but one point in an ongoing process of management that is aimed at constructing a foundational claim for white sovereignty. [22]

To elaborate further: in looking at benevolence as a site for understanding some of the operations of whiteness, I would suggest that rather than employing a ‘narrative of progression’ in relation to ‘white good’—where colonisation is positioned as happening ‘back then’ (which suggests that we are now ‘more enlightened’)—I would instead propose that there is a ‘continuum of benevolence’ through which white belonging is managed. In this way, colonisation may be seen as an ongoing process, something that is evident in much of the current coalition government’s rhetoric around reparation and land rights for Indigenous people. In other words, whilst white benevolence may take many different forms according to its location within particular historical or spatial contexts, it is always already an act of white privilege that perpetuates oppressive practices against Indigenous people. [23]

In order to manage this, the violence of colonisation is repressed within white nationalist discourse through recourse to benevolence as a foundational trope. For, if it can be demonstrated that white people have long been engaged in ‘acts of generosity’ towards Indigenous people, then our location within Australia is presumed to be less problematic. Indeed, as an ongoing tool of repression, white benevolence works to continually reassert the moral good of white people in their relations with Indigenous people. Such assumptions, however, ignore the power relations that are endemic to practices of benevolence. Thus, as Susan Ryan suggests, benevolence is an inherently hierarchical practice [24]—it is based on the presumption that certain groups of people can determine the moral worth or authenticity of groups of people who are deemed to be in need of assistance. [25] Indeed, I would agree with Ryan in her suggestion that benevolence is thus implicitly a racialised practice—that due to its location within histories of racialised hierarchies, the role of the good person is reserved predominantly for white people. As a result, the category ‘good white person’ works to a) attribute moral worth to white people, b) reinforce the power dynamics that structure race as a category of difference and c) to mask such power relations by drawing on benevolence as a practice of altruism.

These three points demonstrate the ways in which discourses of benevolence are implicitly aimed at managing the agency of those people positioned as the racialised other. In Australia, this translates into a range of practices that are designed to limit the authority of Indigenous people and manage the challenges that Indigenous people may present to the hegemony of whiteness. Yet, having said that, I would suggest that rather than denying Indigenous agency, white practices of benevolence demonstrate the anxieties that result from our relationship to Indigenous sovereignty. [26] Thus instead of managing Indigenous agency, white benevolence unintentionally renders visible the unstable foundations of white belonging. In order to illustrate these points, I now look at two extracts of talk that demonstrate the management of stake underpinning white benevolence. In so doing I seek to demonstrate how racism structures the lives of all people in Australia, rather than understanding it as something that impacts only on the lives of non-white people, an approach that typically results in white people attempting to ‘help the other,’ rather than focusing on white privilege. [27]

Projecting Blame/Claiming Belonging

The following data are drawn from a documentary entitled Whiteys Like Us, screened in Australia in 1999. The documentary focused on a study circle that was a part of the 10-year ‘reconciliation plan’ within Australia. The aim of the study circle was to facilitate the discussion of how white people may work productively with Indigenous people towards reconciliation. The following analysis focuses on two apparently conflicting approaches to reconciliation. Yet, as I will demonstrate, both approaches achieve similar rhetorical effects.

The first extract comes from Lesley, a white woman in her late 70s. As a response to several of the group members outlining the impact that colonisation has had on Indigenous people, Lesley responds that

I never, never, never saw anything but good done for Aborigines. And sure, I was with a small tribe of 150, but they chose to come and live beside us, and they came up gladly to get food and we gave it to them—they didn’t care what it was, and they loved sausages. They had nothing in the way of clothes—they were glad to have blankets—they were glad to have clothes for the same reason, there were lots of things they didn’t have… They wouldn’t still be here if they had been left the way they were—we had to say ‘brush the flies out of the babies’ eyes’—and [now] they’re blaming us because they get sick.

Lesley’s account of white benevolence draws upon the missionary desire to ‘do good for the native.’ Indeed, she suggests that Indigenous people “wouldn’t still be here if they had been left the way they were.” Such an account effectively works to manage suggestions by her fellow participants that white people should be accountable for poor Indigenous health. Thus Lesley counters what she sees as Indigenous people “blaming us because they get sick” by retrospectively projecting blame for poor health onto those Indigenous people who needed to be told to “brush the flies out of the babies’ eyes.” Additionally, Lesley represses her own involvement by focusing on the ways that white benevolence was supposedly welcomed by Indigenous people, when she suggests that “they came up gladly to get food,” and that “they were glad to have blankets.” This emphasis on what is presumed to be the positive response of Indigenous people (i.e., that “they were glad”) ignores the networks of power that shape how white people see Indigenous people. This effectively reasserts white ways of knowing, and thus denies Indigenous agency by constructing Indigenous people as passive recipients of white benevolence. [28]

In addition, Lesley’s acts of projection work to implicitly construct Indigenous people as the site of blame for colonisation, through recourse to the trope of benevolence. In other words, in accepting benevolence as always already an act of white moral good that is a response to some ‘objective need’ (i.e., that “they wouldn’t still be here if they had been left the way they were”), Lesley is able to construct Indigenous people as at fault for “getting sick.” In this way, she represses the genocidal acts of colonisation and instead recentres the notion of imperialism as the result of ‘natural progress.’ Thus Lesley is able to rhetorically justify her acts of benevolence as intrinsically good, which also implicitly constructs the ‘recipients’ of her benevolence as either unable or unwilling to ‘do good’ for themselves.

The following extract demonstrates how Sandy and Bere, two middle aged white women in the group, position their own benevolence as more valid, or as less oppressive to Indigenous people than that of Lesley. Thus, when asked about Lesley’s statements outside of the group environment, they are quick to distance themselves from her ‘missionary position,’ and instead attempt to legitimate their own involvement in the group through the implicit assertion of their location within the subject position ‘good white person.’ Yet, as I will demonstrate, their own ‘acts of benevolence’ (i.e., that they are involved in a reconciliation group to ‘help people’) are founded upon beliefs about race which are similar to those of Lesley.

Sandy: I thought ‘why did I sit here [next to Lesley]?’… I thought she looked like such a ‘nice little old lady.’

Bere: Her [Lesley’s] comments were so, well, straight out racist, and terribly hurtful to a whole lot of people.

Here Sandy and Bere demonstrate what Jane Samson and Jennifer Rutherford have identified as the dichotomisation of white people as either good or bad in order to construct white benevolence as a moral category. [29] Samson suggests that by constructing certain white people as being “bad racists,” it is possible to ignore the ways in which racism structures the lives of all people living in Australia. [30] Thus as Sandy suggests, she thought Lesley was “a ‘nice little old lady,'” which implicitly suggests that ‘nice little old [white] ladies’ aren’t racist, or that they don’t benefit from race privilege. Similarly, it constructs her implicit position as a ‘good white person’ in contrast to the ‘evil racist’ sitting next to her. [31]

Bere takes a more explicit position about Lesley with her statement that “her comments were so, well, straight out racist.” Whilst this may not necessarily be read as inferring that Bere is claiming a non-racist subject position (i.e., it could be read that she is suggesting that white people are either ‘racist’ or ‘straight out racist,’ which connects to discourses surrounding ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’ racism [32] ), it nonetheless maintains a focus on explicit acts of racism against, rather than focusing also on acts of racism for: acts that produce white privilege. [33] In this way Bere’s focus on Lesley is similar to that of Sandy. It works to project racism onto someone else, thus implicitly constructing Bere as a ‘good white person.’ This projection would also appear to be evident in Bere’s suggestion that Lesley’s comments were “terribly hurtful to a whole lot of people,” the implication of this being that Bere is one of those people who are “terribly hurt.” This suggestion works to repress the incommensurability of experience that differentiates white people’s experiences of racism from those of Indigenous people. [34] Thus, rather than identifying herself as someone whose privilege holds the potential to be ‘terribly hurtful,’ Bere projects this ‘ability to hurt’ onto Lesley.

In this analysis I have suggested that whilst Sandy and Bere contrast their benevolence with that of Lesley, they draw upon an approach to reconciliation that is very similar to Lesley’s: that white people can (and should) direct and control what counts as reconciliation. Thus in asserting their location within the subject position ‘good white person,’ Sandy and Bere repress their own relationships to racialised practices, and effectively deny the ways in which their acts of benevolence may be viewed differently by Indigenous people. Together, these two short extracts unsettle benevolence as a foundational enactment of white morality, and instead demonstrate some of the anxieties that shape white subjectivities. Lesley manages her stake in imperialism by citing her benevolent acts, thus repressing her relation to colonisation as an oppressive practice, whilst Sandy and Bere distance themselves from racism by projecting it onto Lesley. In these complex ways, all of the participants manage their claim to belonging in Australia, and thus effectively deny their relationship to Indigenous sovereignty. As I will now go on to discuss, this relationship to Indigenous sovereignty is a central aspect of the work that we as white academics do under the rubric of ‘anti-racism.’

Anti-Racist Practice and ‘Refusing to be Good White People’ [35]

Having presented earlier versions of this paper to a number of different audiences, I feel it important to address some of the concerns raised about it. First, people have asked me what this means for those working in the area of anti-racism: does it mean that everything we do as white people is an enactment of imperial benevolence? And second, people have challenged me by questioning how my own work as a white person is anything but an act of benevolence. Both of these questions have in fact informed how I approached writing up this paper for publication, and the framework which I have utilised; they are questions that were implicitly presented to me by my friend who found the quote from Lilla Watson to be confronting, and I struggled at first to find ways to adequately address them.

It seemed to me that the most useful way of attempting to work through these issues was to engage with the work of Fiona Nicoll, and her suggestion that we need to recognise and understand our relationship to Indigenous sovereignty. [36] Nicoll suggests that whilst it may appear that white people have no relation to Indigenous sovereignty, this is much the same as the belief that race is a problem only for non-white people. As people living in a country that is founded upon acts of dispossession and genocide, we as white people cannot escape our relationship to both Indigenous sovereignty and racialised practices: our location is predicated upon the disavowal of the two as structuring factors. [37] Thus, as I have suggested earlier, acts of benevolence may be understood as attempts at constructing a claim to white sovereignty that exceeds Indigenous sovereignty. Lesley provides a good example of this when she outlines all that she believes the Indigenous people she met ‘lacked’ (i.e., clothes, blankets, health care and food). By positioning herself as a ‘good white person’ who could ‘save’ Indigenous people, Lesley thus implicitly asserts a right to sovereignty through ownership; that she is entitled to belong because she a) came from a ‘superior culture,’ and b) used her location within this culture to ‘do good’. These assumptions work to construct Indigenous sovereignty as either an impossibility, or an exercise doomed to fail.

Yet, in contrast to this, Indigenous people continue to challenge, resist and refuse the imposition of white ways of knowing. As a result, white people are always already in a relationship with Indigenous sovereignty—it shapes the work that we do, and the practices that we engage in. I would suggest, then, that in order for us to challenge our location as ‘good white people,’ we need to respond to the critiques that Indigenous people are making, and to do so by challenging our own frameworks. Thus in this paper I have attempted to refuse the simple dichotomy that constructs Indigenous people as passive recipients of colonisation, and ‘good white people’ as their saviours, and instead have sought to recognise the potential for resistance that is masked by acts of white benevolence. For example, in the extract from Lesley we may read a space for alternate histories of benevolence: in whose eyes were Indigenous people ‘glad,’ and by whose definition would Indigenous people ‘not still be here’? In this way it may be possible to read white accounts of benevolence as always already an attempt to manage stake, to repress or deny Indigenous sovereignty: a fact that always already exists and which thus unsettles any claim to white belonging.

In relation to the second question raised in relation to this paper—is my own work an act of benevolence?—the answer is somewhat more complex. At the same time as I would like to suggest my work engages in a critical approach to racism by a) speaking out about my own location as a white person, b) attempting to employ a framework that acknowledges my relationship to Indigenous sovereignty, and c) responding to the critiques and suggestions made by Indigenous people (e.g., those made by Lilla Watson), I feel it is also important to recognise that this still prioritises my (white) definition of ‘critical.’ Further, it is impossible for me to claim that my work will not be viewed as benevolent: as yet another white person claiming to ‘tell it like it is’ with the aim of being ‘helpful.’ Thus as Aileen Moreton-Robinson suggests, white people’s “anti-racist practice, as an intellectual engagement, is evidence of their compassion, but systemic racism is not experienced as subject/knowers.” [38]

As a response to this, and again following Fiona Nicoll, I have attempted to unsettle whiteness by analysing the issues it creates for us as white people, rather than seeking to offer ‘help’ to Indigenous people (a position that is the dominant approach to analysing racism: how we can help ‘the object’ of racism). [39] In this way, I have intended to refuse the subject position ‘good white person’ in that I have not focused in this paper on what ‘bad whites’ do to Indigenous people and how we can assist Indigenous people to overcome this. Neither have I sought to necessarily be a ‘better white person’ by locating (and then denying) my own racism or race privilege. Instead I have sought to recognise the complex nature of racism as productive of privilege, and thus as something that we assert at the same time as we seek to challenge it. By locating ourselves in a relationship to Indigenous sovereignty, it may be possible for us to better understand our complicity with benevolent practices, and thus to reconfigure (rather than ‘move outside’) our location within them. [40] As a result, we may complicate benevolence as a presumed-to-be moral category, and instead understand it as a network of power that attempts to mask histories of colonisation. What this means for our work on whiteness is that rather than attempting to find neat or unthreatening answers, we need to be willing to work with our discomfort and recognise that it results from our location within networks of privilege—networks that normally mask, rather than centre, our racialised identities.

Conclusions

So, in conclusion, and to return to the theme of ‘untitled,’ it has been my intention to contribute to the visibilisation of whiteness as a site of power in Australia. Yet, at the same time, I have sought to demonstrate the anxieties that structure whiteness in ways that challenge it as an absolute site of power. Whiteness relies upon its ‘untitled status’ in order to warrant white belonging as a priori, rather than as contingent. Yet, as I have suggested throughout this paper, this claim to invisibility is always already rendered unstable by our location within Indigenous sovereignty. Thus I have suggested that practices of benevolence, as evidenced in the analysis of the Whiteys Like Us documentary, may be understood as attempts at managing this anxiety, and therefore reasserting the normative status of whiteness.

As a counter to this, I have suggested that our relationship to Indigenous sovereignty continues to contest the untitled status of whiteness, and to render it more visibly an attempt at control. I would suggest that, in order to challenge benevolence as an ongoing practice of imperialism, we as white people need to acknowledge our location within racism, and to refuse to perform the subject position ‘good white person.’ To paraphrase Fiona Nicoll, [41] rather than ‘solving racism’ by being better white people, we need to recognise that belief in the ‘goodness’ of white people, values and ways of knowing is precisely the foundation of practices of oppression in this country.

Acknowledgements

I would firstly like to acknowledge the sovereignty of the Kaurna people, the First Nations people upon whose land I live. My thanks go to Martha Augoustinos and Louise Messenger for the many conversations that helped shape this paper, to all those at DARU, Adelaide and the Whiteness Research Group who helped me to work through these ideas, and to the two anonymous referees whose comments greatly improved the original version of this paper. And thanks, as always, to Greg, for support and proof reading.


Damien Riggs is currently a doctoral candidate whose research focuses on the social construction of whiteness in Australia. He is also involved in research in the area of lesbian and gay psychology, and has a co-edited book (with Gordon Walker) on this area entitled Out in the Antipodes coming out in late 2004. Damien is a committed member of the recently formed Australian Critical Race and Whiteness Studies Association (www.acrawsa.org.au) and is also involved in foster carer advocacy and training, as well as being a foster parent himself.


Notes

[1] I use the term ‘we as white people’ within this paper advisedly. Whilst it is extremely problematic to a) assume that all readers of this paper identify or are identified as white, and b) homogenise all white people into the one category of ‘we,’ it is what I believe to be a ‘necessary risk.’ I say this hesitantly, as it may indeed be read as dismissing the important issues raised by the two points just listed. Yet, at the same time, it would appear to me to be important not to perpetuate what Fiona Nicoll terms “the violence of perspective” (see Fiona Nicoll, “Indigenous Sovereignty and the Violence of Perspective: A White Woman’s Coming Out Story,” Australian Feminist Studies 15 (2000): 369). In other words, the choice available to me is either to write in the third person (and thus effectively claim an illusionary position outside of whiteness), or to write in the first person (both singular and plural), and thus make some attempt to engage reflexively with my own privilege. Whilst I am not satisfied with this as a theoretical position, the alternatives (either writing in the third person, or continually using cumbersome terms such as ‘white people/we’) are themselves not particularly productive. My use of the term is thus one attempt at working within a ‘white perspective.’

[2] Ruth Frankenberg, White Women, Race Matters (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993). See also Damien W. Riggs, “Challenging the Monoculturalism of Psychology: Towards a More Socially Accountable Pedagogy and Practice,” Australian Psychologist 39 (2004): 118-126.

[3] Richard Dyer, White (London: Routledge, 1997), 5-10. It is important to note here, however, that discussions of the invisibility of whiteness have moved on considerably since the publication of Dyer’s work. In particular, Ruth Frankenberg has outlined some of the complex ways in which whiteness is seen, and how its reliance upon the visual as a marker of difference thus creates a ‘specular economy’ within which racialised looking (and thus seeing) is valorised (Ruth Frankenberg, “Mirage of an Unmarked Whiteness,” in The Making and Unmaking of Whiteness, Birgit Brander Rasmussen, Irene J. Nexica, Eric Klinenberg, Matt Wray, eds. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001). In addition to this, and as I have mentioned, whilst whiteness attempts to claim an unmarked position, this ‘untitledness’ is far from the reality of racialised subjectivities.

[4] Damien W. Riggs, “Repressing a Privileged Location: Exploring the Uncanniness of White Belonging in Australia,” Analysis (in-press).

[5] Or more precisely, upon these countries.

[6] Lilla Watson, “Untitled” in Health for Women 3 (Brisbane: Department of Health, January 1992), 1.

[7] See also Damien W. Riggs, “Managing the ‘Anxiety of Whiteness’: Science, Imperialism and the Construction of the White Gaze” (paper presented at the VII Lacan Symposium in Australia: Psychoanalysis, Science and Culture in the 21st Century, Melbourne, 25-26 July 2003); and Damien W. Riggs and Martha Augoustinos, “Projecting Threat: Managing Subjective Investments in Whiteness,” Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society 9 (2004).

[8] Jane Samson, Imperial Benevolence: Making British Authority in the Pacific Islands (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1998), 175.

[9] Rachael Landers, Whiteys Like Us (Civic Square, ACT: Ronin Films, 1999), documentary.

[10] Riggs and Augoustinos.

[11] Fiona Nicoll, “‘Are you Calling Me a Racist?’ Teaching Critical Whiteness Theory in Indigenous Sovereignty,” Borderlands e-journal 3 (in press). Available from http://www.borderlandsejournal.adelaide.edu.au.

[12] Damien W. Riggs, “Psychoanalysis as ‘Postcolonising’ Reading Practice: Towards a Discursive Psychological Understanding of Racism-as-Repression,” Psychoanalytic Psychology (in press).

[13] See also Kalpana Seshadri-Crooks, “The Primitive as Analyst: Postcolonial Feminism’s Access to Psychoanalysis,” Cultural Critique 28 (fall 1994): 175.

[14] Michael Billig, Freudian Repression: Conversation Creating the Unconscious (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 50-56.

[15] Rhajana Khana, Dark Continents: Psychoanalysis and Colonialism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003).

[16] Damien W. Riggs and Jane M. Selby, “Setting the Seen: Whiteness as Unmarked Category in Psychologists’ Writings on Race in Australia,” in Proceedings of the 38th APS Annual Conference, Mary Katsikitis, ed. (Melbourne: Australian Psychological Society, 2003), 190.

[17] Jennifer Rutherford, The Gauche Intruder: Freud, Lacan and the White Australian Fantasy (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2000); Ghassan Hage, White Nation: Fantasies of White Supremacy in a Multicultural Society (Annandale: Pluto Press, 1998).

[18] See also Hazel V. Carby, “White Woman Listen! Black Feminism and the Boundaries of Sisterhood,” in Black British Feminism: A Reader, H.S. Mirza, ed. (London: Routledge, 1997), 45.

[19] Riggs and Augoustinos, 125-130.

[20] Sigmund Freud, “The Uncanny,” in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 17, (1917-1919) (London: Hogarth Press, 1961), 219; see also Riggs, “Psychoanalysis as ‘Postcolonising’ Reading Practice.”

[21] Samson, 7-23.

[22] See also Margaret Jolly, “Colonizing Women: The Maternal Body and Empire,” in Feminism and the Politics of Difference, Sneja Gunew and Anna Yeatman, eds. (St. Leonards: Allen & Unwin, 1993), 103.

[23] Thus, as Aileen Moreton-Robinson suggests, “what needs emphasis here is the conjuncture of good intentions of individuals and the theft, denial and silence that supports white sovereignty… They appear simultaneously within similar conversations without appearance of contradiction or unreasonableness.” Aileen Moreton-Robinson, “Treaty talk: Past, Present and Future,” Melbourne Historical Journal 29 (2001): 7-14.

[24] Susan M. Ryan, “Misgivings: Melville, Race and the Ambiguities of Benevolence,” American Literary History 12 (2000): 685.

[25] Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Talkin’ Up to the White Woman: Indigenous Women and Feminism (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000), 72-92.

[26] Riggs, “Managing the ‘Anxiety of Whiteness’: Science, Imperialism and the Construction of the White Gaze.”

[27] Jane Haggis and Suzanne Schech, “Meaning Well and Global Good Manners: Reflections on White Western Feminist Cross-cultural Praxis,” Australian Feminist Studies 15 (2000): 387.

[28] Riggs, “Managing the ‘Anxiety of Whiteness’: Science, Imperialism and the Construction of the White Gaze.”

[29] Samson, 24-41; Rutherford, 7-10.

[30] Riggs and Selby, 191.

[31] See also Johnson-Riordan, Race Wars (forthcoming).

[32] For more on the problems associated with this distinction see Riggs and Selby, 193; and Martha Augoustinos and Katherine J. Reynolds, “Prejudice, Racism and Social Psychology,” in Understanding Prejudice, Racism and Social Conflict, Martha Augoustinos and Katherine J. Reynolds, eds. (London: Sage, 2001), 1-10.

[33] Michelle Fine, “Witnessing Whiteness,” in Off White: Readings on Race, Power and Society, Lois Weis, L.C. Powell and L. Mun Wong, eds. (New York: Routledge, 1997), 57.

[34] Damien W. Riggs, “Repressing a Privileged Location: Exploring the Uncanniness of White Belonging in Australia,” Analysis (in press).

[35] Thanks to Fiona Nicoll for this turn of phrase: see Nicoll, “Indigenous Sovereignty and the Violence of Perspective: A White Woman’s Coming Out Story.”

[36] See, for example, Nicoll, “‘Are you Calling Me a Racist?’ Teaching Critical Whiteness Theory in Indigenous Sovereignty.”

[37] See also Johnson-Riordan.

[38] Aileen Moreton-Robinson, “Troubling Business: Difference and Whiteness within Feminism,” Australian Feminist Studies 15 (2000): 350.

[39] Nicoll, “Indigenous Sovereignty and the Violence of Perspective: A White Woman’s Coming Out Story.”

[40] See also Tanya Dalziell, “‘We Should Try, While There’s Yet Time, To Gather all the Information Possible of a Race Fast Dying Out’: Unsettling Sympathetic Women,” Australian Feminist Studies 17 (2002): 325.

[41] Fiona Nicoll, “Indigenous Sovereignty and the Violence of Perspective: A White Woman’s Coming Out Story,” 381.