Young people and the politics of racial discourse

Year: 2000


Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper addresses the political beliefs held by four different groups of 15 and 16 year old Australian school students, focussing particularly on how they represent and reflect on issues of racism, nationalism, individualism and unemployment. (These interviews were conducted as part of the '12 to 18 Project', a qualitative, longitudinal study of Australian secondary school students.) Our purpose in these interviews was not so much to find out if students held racist views, as it was to understand how they formulated discourses, for example, on race or nationalism, how these intersected with their views on other topics, and how they positioned themselves discursively-as 'Australian', as 'Other'. We examine the similarities and contrasts in students' political views and forms of reasoning, and consider these in relation to the type of school they attended, their life history and cultural and class background. This paper thus analyses the way discourses, for example, about racism, freedom of speech, individual rights and unemployment, intersect and have distinct forms and effects in different sites and among different groups of young people. And it explores the intersection of these discourses with practices of self-formation.