Cultural flows in an Aboriginal school : deterritorializing textual production through a socially mediated Indigenous heritage
Mills, Kathy A. (2014) Cultural flows in an Aboriginal school : deterritorializing textual production through a socially mediated Indigenous heritage. In American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting : The Power of Education Research for Innovation in Practice and Policy, 3-7 April 2014, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
Flows of cultural heritage in textual practices are vital to sustaining Indigenous communities. Indigenous heritage, whether passed on by oral tradition or ubiquitous social media, can be seen as a “conversation between the past and the future” (Fairclough, 2012, xv). Indigenous heritage involves appropriating memories within a cultural flow to pass on a spiritual legacy. This presentation reports ethnographic research of social media practices in a small independent Aboriginal school in Southeast Queensland, Australia that is resided over by the Yugambeh elders and an Aboriginal principal.
The purpose was to rupture existing notions of white literacies in schools, and to deterritorialize the uses of digital media by dominant cultures in the public sphere. Examples of learning experiences included the following: i. Integrating Indigenous language and knowledge into media text production; ii. Using conversations with Indigenous elders and material artifacts as an entry point for storytelling; iii. Dadirri – spiritual listening in the yarning circle to develop storytelling (Ungunmerr-Baumann, 2002); and iv. Writing and publicly sharing oral histories through digital scrapbooking shared via social media. The program aligned with the Australian National Curriculum English (ACARA, 2012), which mandates the teaching of multimodal text creation.
Data sources included a class set of digital scrapbooks collaboratively created in a multi-age primary classroom. The digital scrapbooks combined digitally encoded words, images of material artifacts, and digital music files. A key feature of the writing and digital design task was to retell and digitally display and archive a cultural narrative of significance to the Indigenous Australian community and its memories and material traces of the past for the future.
Data analysis of the students’ digital stories involved the application of key themes of negotiated, material, and digitally mediated forms of heritage practice. It drew on Australian Indigenous research by Keddie et al. (2013) to guard against the homogenizing of culture that can arise from a focus on a static view of culture. The interpretation of findings located Indigenous appropriation of social media within broader racialized politics that enables Indigenous literacy to be understood as a dynamic, negotiated, and transgenerational flows of practice.
The findings demonstrate that Indigenous children’s use of media production reflects “shifting and negotiated identities” in response to changing media environments that can function to sustain Indigenous cultural heritages (Appadurai, 1696, xv). It demonstrated how the children’s experiences of culture are layered over time, as successive generations inherit, interweave, and hear others’ cultural stories or maps. It also demonstrated how the children’s production of narratives through multimedia can provide a platform for the flow and reconstruction of performative collective memories and “lived traces of a common past” (Giaccardi, 2012). It disrupts notions of cultural reductionism and racial incommensurability that fix and homogenize Indigenous practices within and against a dominant White norm. Recommendations are provided for an approach to appropriating social media in schools that explicitly attends to the dynamic nature of Indigenous practices, negotiated through intercultural constructions and flows, and opening space for a critical anti-racist approach to multimodal text production.
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