Disembodied experts, accountability and refusal: an autoethnography of two (ab)Original women

Lauren Tynan*, Michelle Bishop

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


As two Aboriginal women from the lands now known as Australia, we seek to combine our disciplinary knowledges of education and community development to offer an Indigenous autoethnographic account on the tensions involved when working for our communities, yet within systems and structures of whiteness. To do this, we draw on whiteness studies to conceptualise the ‘disembodied expert’. Expertise becomes ‘disembodied’ when it is decoupled from the knower’s standpoint, ontology, and raced and gendered corporeal form, particularly the feet that connect to Land and Mother beneath. This detachment results in a severing of accountability to community, ancestors, and Country. We propose the action of ‘refusal’ as an everyday assertion of agency within systems such as the Indigenous Affairs and human rights industries that tend to privilege ‘disembodied experts’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-231
Number of pages15
JournalAustralian Journal of Human Rights
Issue number2
Early online date1 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • development
  • disembodied expert
  • education
  • Indigenous autoethnography
  • refusal
  • whiteness


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