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Juggling with pronouns: Racist discourse in spoken interaction on the radio

Australian Aboriginal Studies
Issue 1 (2013)

Abstract: While the discourse of deficit with regard to Australian Indigenous health and wellbeing has been well documented in print media and through images on film and on television, radio talk concerning this discourse remains under-researched. This paper interrogates the power of an interactive news interview, aired on the Radio National Breakfast program on ABC Radio in 2011, to maintain and reproduce the discourse of deficit, despite the best intentions of the interview participants. Using a conversation-analytical approach, and membership categorisation analysis in particular, this paper interrogates the spoken interaction between a well-known radio interviewer and a respected medical researcher into Indigenous eye health. It demonstrates the recreation of a discourse emanating from longstanding hegemonies between mainstream and Indigenous Australians. Analysis of first-person pronoun use shows the ongoing negotiation of social category boundaries and construction of moral identities through ascriptions to category members, upon which the intelligibility of the interview for the listening audience depended. The findings from analysis support claims in a considerable body of whiteness studies literature, the main themes of which include the pervasiveness of a racist discourse in Australian media and society, the power of invisible assumptions, and the importance of naming and exposing them.

To cite this article: Roy, Di. Juggling with pronouns: Racist discourse in spoken interaction on the radio [online]. Australian Aboriginal Studies, No. 1, 2013: 17-30. Availability: <;dn=422933737633499;res=IELIND> ISSN: 0729-4352. [cited 24 Jul 17].

Personal Author: Roy, Di; Source: Australian Aboriginal Studies, No. 1, 2013: 17-30 DOI: Document Type: Journal Article ISSN: 0729-4352 Subject: Conversation analysis; Discourse analysis; Aboriginal Australians; Racism in language; Racism; Interviewing on radio; Peer Reviewed: Yes Affiliation: (1) Visiting Fellow, School of Music, Australian National University, Canberra, email:

Database: Indigenous Collection