Who's asking the questions?: Researching institutional race relations

Year: 1997

Author: Kamler, Barbara, Santoro, Ninetta, Reid, Jo-Anne

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The issue of racism in Australian society is highly significant at the present time. We can no longer consider ourselves as untainted by the mark of racism in social and institutional practice. However, most research dealing with racism in an Australian context has investigated racism between students and/or institutionalised racism directed towards ethnic minority students. If we accept the view that popular racism (Rizvi 1993) pervades all facets of society, covertly and overtly, that we are all implicated in it (Troyna, 1993), and that most teachers and teacher educators occupy contradictory positions in relation to racism, then we are led inexorably to ask why there has been little recognition or understanding of racism as it is experienced by practising teachers in schools.

In this paper we explore the methodological ethics of an attempt to investigate this problem, as we research the nature of the professional experience of overseas born and educated non-native English speaking teachers in Victorian secondary schools. We will discuss the ethical and theoretical dilemmas which arose for us as we worked on the development of a questionnaire to be distributed to all principals in state secondary schools. The shaping of this questionnaire has become a concrete realisation of the dilemmas of insider/outsider research, particularly in relation to race, and we use this experience to situate and theorise this dilemma in terms of our current research practice.