What the eye beholds: visibility and differential racialisation in regional schools

Year: 2012

Author: Colvin, Neroli

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Across time and cultures, physical appearance has been a powerful mediator of inter- and intragroup relations and of political, educational and economic opportunities. What differences we notice, and the meanings and significances we ascribe to and invest in the differences we observe, is heavily influenced by social and cultural factors. The actions of a member of a minority ethnic group may be attributed by the dominant group to “their culture”, whereas the dominant group tends to attribute the actions of one of its own members to “that individual” rather than cultural forces. In rural and regional Australia, where cultural diversity has typically not been a strong lived reality, this tendency may be more pronounced. Moreover, newcomers' ability to integrate into their new environment is often judged on their appearance: the more visibly different they are (skin colour, facial features, dress and so on), the more likely they are to be perceived by the mainstream as culturally distant. This paper draws upon early data from research in two high schools in regional New South Wales to explore issues of (in)visibility, identification, radicalisation and belonging.