1. Michelle Evans

  1. School of Management and Marketing, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, Australia
  1. Michelle Evans, School of Management and Marketing, Charles Sturt University, c/- Panorama Ave, Bathurst, NSW 2795, Australia.
    Email: mievans{at}csu.edu.au
  1. Amanda Sinclair

  1. Melbourne Business School, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


Drawing on the experiences of 29 Australian Indigenous artists and arts leaders, this article explores the way these individuals
provide leadership by expressing and resisting cultural identities of Aboriginality. Scholars have shown how a key activity
in leadership is ‘identity work’, or negotiating a sustainable leadership identity, yet much of the scholarship to date neglects
context and cultural dimensions of identity work in leadership. Our research draws on the extensive theorising on social identity,
but we take a critical perspective, arguing that public discourses of Aboriginality mean that leadership identities in Indigenous
communities have a complex, sometimes contested status. We begin the article showing the way in which Aboriginality as an
identity is constructed in the public domain. We then explore three categories of identity practice enacted by our sample
of arts leaders: contesting essentialisation, containing trauma and creating belonging. The discussion argues that these practices
of interrogating and re-shaping stereotypic cultural identities often constitute acts of leadership. We contribute to scholarship
by providing new insights on identity work; and to practice, highlighting the potential significance of leadership identity
work to the self-determination and flourishing of Aboriginal peoples.

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Containing, contesting, creating spaces: leadership and cultural identity work among Australian Indigenous arts leaders