In Australia, Indigenous peoples experience poorer oral health than their non-Indigenous counterparts across nearly every oral health metric. Recently, neoliberalism has been suggested as an overwhelming contributor to Indigenous oral health disparities. The objective of this qualitative research was to generate an understanding of how neoliberal subjectivity exists for Indigenous peoples in the context of oral health in Australia.
Interviews from 177 participants were analyzed and contributed to the generation of a conceptual model with two components. The embodiment of neoliberal subjectivity was expressed as experiences of ownership, guilt, failure, embarrassment, shame, and judgment. Participants identified factors that exacerbated the experience of neoliberal subjectivity, which included bullying, financial limitations, and institutional racism. Components of the conceptual model largely relate to the neoliberal ideology of personal responsibility.
The authors argue that personal responsibility for health, as a tenet of neoliberal ideologies, furthers Indigenous oral health inequities and that neoliberalism as a societal discourse perpetuates colonial values by benefitting the privileged and further oppressing the disadvantaged.
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