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What can Hannah Arendt's theorising add to equity policy activism in higher education institutions?
conference contributionposted on 2008-01-01, 00:00 authored by Uschi Bay
Human rights theory is based on universalistic moral perspectives that regard each individual as a bearer of rights. These rights are often legislated nationally and implementation mandated for institutions including higher education institutions. Arendt contests this kind of governance and ruling. Arendt argues for an agonal politics. Arendt theorises politics and power as something that cannot occur in isolation; it is through ‘acting in concert’ with others that a political community is constituted. Arendt advocates for a public space where people can take care of the ‘public things’ between them to work out how to live together. In this paper I reflect on my role promoting equity within Australian higher education institutions and explore what Arendt’s theorising can add to rethinking this kind of human rights work. Arendt argued that re-valuing politics would pave the way to a ‘new appreciation of human plurality’ (Villa 1996: 17). I will argue that the ‘Fair Chance for All’ (1990) equity policy promoted a form of identity politics within higher education institutions. I argue that Arendt’s theorising can effectively disrupt identity politics and offers a corrective to the way human rights legislation and related institutional policies tend to focus on specific target populations.