Nomads, Exiles, Pilgrims, Tourists: Women Teachers in the Canadian North and the Australian Outback

Year: 2001

Author: Harper, Helen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper will draw on a study of white and indigenous women teaching in Northern First Nation's communities in Canada. This ongoing study involves a series of interviews, field studies, and extensive historical documentation of women teachers working in isolated Arctic and Sub-arctic communities. In part, this data reveals the difficulties of crossing cultural, racial, linguistic and geographical boundaries that women face in negotiating a personal and professional sense of themselves as teachers. Issues of migration and transience are common in the material lives and discursive histories of the women interviewed. The paper will offer an initial, and at this point, tentative comparison to similar border-crossing required both historically and in the contemporary lives of women teachers working in the Australian Outback. The analysis of the two contexts will employ postmodern and postcolonial notions of "the exile," "the nomad," and "the tourist," as they illuminate the experiences of women teachers (Naficy, 1999; Bhabha, 1994). This theoretical work, along side feminist scholarship, offers a better means of understanding and analysing the struggles of women teachers and the ongoing struggles of indigenous communities with regard to education. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of this work for teacher education.