Few staff in the global university start to think about how their workplaces are actually run until they are in the middle of a change process. Day-to-day work does not provide a vocabulary with which to read fluently the language of change, and the act of coping with change processes as they occur makes it difficult to reflect on their meaning. Somewhere in the cycle of review, restructuring and redundancy emerges the uncomfortable truth: that the change process itself is not an anomaly but a product of how universities are run, in New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere.
This digital collection complements the special Aotearoa issue of Overland and is a testament to the response that our call for submissions received. These four essays shouldn’t be regarded as the ‘next best’, but rather as other directions in which the print issue could have gone, and which our writers wanted to explore.
In his new book Between the World and Me, the American writer Ta-Nehisi Coates discusses the experience of whiteness. ‘My experience in this world,’ he says, ‘has been that the people who believe themselves to be white are obsessed with the politics of personal exoneration. And the word racist, to them, conjures if not a tobacco-spitting oaf, then something just as fantastic – an orc, troll or gorgon. … There are no racists in America, or at least none that the people who need to be white know personally.’
There are no racists in Australia, either.
Some people will ask, ‘What’s your background?’ Others, usually with a drunken drawl, will demand, ‘What’s your nationality?’ even if I’ve explained that I’m Australian. Some will put it simply by asking, ‘Where are you from?’ And this question, without fail, vacillates from the obvious to the awkward. Not Geelong, Blackburn or Carlton – no, these places do not suffice as places of origin. What they want to know is where my coloured skin comes from even if, in a locational sense, I’m not from there.