Weaving yarns : the lived experience of Indigenous Australians with adult-onset disability in Brisbane

King, Julie Anne (2010) Weaving yarns : the lived experience of Indigenous Australians with adult-onset disability in Brisbane. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Indigenous Australians have lower levels of health than mainstream Australians and (as far as statistics are able to indicate) higher levels of disability, yet there is little information on Indigenous social and cultural constructions of disability or the Indigenous experience of disability. This research seeks to address these gaps by using an ethnographic approach, couched within a critical medical anthropology (CMA) framework and using the “three bodies” approach, to study the lived experience of urban Indigenous people with an adult-onset disability. The research approach takes account of the debate about the legitimacy of research into Indigenous Australians, Foucault‟s governmentality, and the arguments for different models of disability. The possibility of a cultural model of disability is raised. After a series of initial interviews with contacts who were primarily service providers, more detailed ethnographic research was conducted with three Indigenous women in their homes and with four groups of Indigenous women and men at an Indigenous respite centre. The research involved multiple visits over a period extending more than two years, and the establishment of relationships with all participants. An iterative inductive approach utilising constant comparison (i.e. a form of grounded theory) was adopted, enabling the generation and testing of working hypotheses. The findings point to the lack of an Indigenous construct of disability, related to the holistic construction of health among Indigenous Australians. Shame emerges as a factor which affects the way that Indigenous Australians respond to disability, and which operates in apparent contradiction to expectations of community support. Aspects of shame relate to governmentality, suggesting that self-disciplinary mechanisms have been taken up and support the more obvious exertion of government power. A key finding is the strength of Indigenous identity above and beyond other forms of identification, e.g. as a person with a disability, expressed in forms of resistance by individuals and service providers to the categories and procedures of the mainstream. The implications of a holistic construction of health are discussed in relation to the use of CMA, the interpretation of the “three bodies”, governmentality and resistance. The explanatory value of the concept of sympatricity is discussed, as is the potential value of a cultural model of disability which takes into account the cultural politics of a defiant Indigenous identity.

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ID Code: 34447
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Brough, Mark & Knox, Marie
Keywords: Indigenous Australians, disability, governmentality, three bodies, critical medical anthropology, culture, Aboriginal, resistance, Foucault, grounded theory, ethnography, colonisation, sympatricity
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Past > Schools > Social Work & Human Services
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 10 Sep 2010 05:50
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:57

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