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Critical Indigenous Studies & Research

Week 4: Critical Indigenous Studies & Research. 20/03/23

I have chosen four readings this week to comment on. Their commonality of theme is, Western domination and how its power in research can be addressed for both Indigenous and non–Indigenous researchers, through acknowledging the origins of Western research protocols, that have dehumanised Indigenous peoples and continued to privilege Western ways. These articles challenge mainstream research institutions to peruse respectful and reciprocal research relationships with Indigenous communities, that will involve the researchers being participants in the process of decolonisation.

I laughed out loud when I read Menzies opening narrative that made reference to ‘political correctness’ as being the appropriate answer for why a First Nations participant was NOT sitting at the table of an ecological knowledge workshop. An answer that automatically ties research back to Western imperial advantage, where objectivity and science are the dominant methods, advancing liberal individualism, that place the Western accumulation of knowledge ahead of the people being studied.

In both Bishop and Menzies the non–Indigenous researcher is not being discounted, there is simply a discussion as to the method in which respectful and reciprocal research should be embarked on within Indigenous communities. This will take the framework protocols of being inclusive, consolatory, considered, respectful, and reciprocal, and the total approach will encompass a decolonising move for the researcher. Rather than research ON, it will now be defined as research WITH the respective Indigenous community. This research will have clearly defined and agreed rights, responsibilities and obligations, ensuring that the dominant societies power is not expanded and the colonised community not excluded.
I particularly resonated with the comments made in Menzies, pg.29, as to the ‘dilettantish obsession with text’ that exists today in contrast to the earlier role of an anthropologist, where their study was seen to offer an activist framework (that they were well suited to mediate), of dialogue across the two society’s. This assisted with the colonised struggle to reclaim against forced relocation, systemic discrimination and expropriation of resources and territory.

I have also experienced this within my lived experience with the RAW wāhine. I have witnessed the conversations that go on around them, without them, that have so little relevance and understanding to the input that is required, to support their historical journeys and true educative restoration.
Incarcerated wāhine have been a constant source of study inside and outside the wire, by academia. Report upon report has been written, these are the results of infrequent, specifically engineered and minimal visits with the wāhine. However, there has been no visible change to the wāhine outcomes, other than their increased ability to get handouts, that continue to undermine their tino rangatiratanga, and aid and authorise their criminal normals.
These written observations whether by Māori or non-Māori researchers, whilst detailing the challenges that exist, struggle to find real solutions, in their quest to decarcerate the wāhine.
Bishop defines kaupapa Māori research, as a collective approach that benefits all, by acknowledging Māori aspirations and implementing Māori methodology, where the researched retains control over the research to enable a self-determination, and shifts the benefits of the research to the researched not the researcher.
Māori are now addressing the domination and power of Western research methods, reordering these relationships and taking the focus of self, by entering a participatory mode of consciousness. Kaupapa Māori research, is based on a different worldview that makes a political statement by addressing racism and colonisation, this reflects the community based research that is detailed in Menzies.
Finally, Simpson reflects on the purposeful use of a Western post-secondary
based educational skill set as being a way to change the relationship between Western ways of studying Indigenous peoples. She talks to acknowledging, the gentleness, humility, carefulness, and ability to proceed slowly, as the foundation required to divest academic power, and return the research responsibility (creating space for them), to the community elders and intellectuals. Simpson talks to the stories she has listened to over five years, that are about struggle and self-determination, although not through crisis, survival or victim based narratives. These were about self-determination and change from the inside, rather than recognition from the outside. Invigorating a whole of community way of living that was empathetic, relational and thoughtful, and not driven by consumption. They were developing an ‘ethical framework’ for life.
I reflect on this as I develop my thesis questions on a decarceration strategy.
That also looks to a village approach to life, effected on the inside, that delivers
a connectedness, reciprocity, and accountability.

All wāhine that are sentenced into AWRCF (Auckland Women's Regional Correctional Facility), would then participate in this model of care on a day-to-day basis. The village focused framework would be the operational framework at AWRCF, it would NOT be elective, or negotiable, it is simply the way that the inside would run. The difference being that it would now offer opportunity, enablement, empowerment and mana, producing sustainable and long-term intergenerational restorative change inside and outside, not punishment, amplification of criminal prowess and further mainstream distancing.

Emancipative theory: I found this statement particularly confronting in Bishop.

However, in many ways the radical/emancipatory approach is perhaps the more insidious for it purports to side with Māori struggles, yet insists that Māori people are an 'oppressed minority’, Bishop, pg.213.

I reflect on the RAW mahi and the powerlessness of the recidivist wāhine both inside and outside the wire. I also reflect on the reasons that I have engaged in this mahi for 10 years, and the outcomes that can be achieved, as a result of the mahi and understanding, supported by the many trusted relationships I am privileged to have with the RAW wāhine. That to walk away and simply deliver an out of gate model of care, based on the ‘insidious perspective’ that attaches to my approach, to not provide advocacy within a purposefully agreed and culturally aligned decarceration strategy, will achieve nothing purposeful for them. Such is the confrontational dilemma that exists around these readings (as a white privileged woman), and what I now know as a result of the RAW mahi.

They [that is, theoretical accounts constructed by outsiders] may also try to reveal, at the social-structural level, the ideological character of group life by showing how social processes such as language and the processes of cultural production and reproduction shape our experiences of the social world in specific ways and for specific purposes. These kinds of explanations not only deny the validity of the individual’s own explanation of what he [sic] is doing. They also offer alternative explanations which, were they made intelligible and acceptable to the individuals concerned would prevent them from acting in the ways that they do (Bishop, Pg. 213).

Red Pedagogy: The Un-Methodology: Sandy Grande.

This was a reading that was part of my MĀORI571 one paper. When I reflect back and review my summary, I begin wonder if I have missed the core elements of Grande’s discussion, especially after viewing Hayley’s video on the reading.

Grande makes three points in her writing.
1. Research of Indigenous communities is a dirty word and needs to be pushed back on.
2. Critical theory, whilst useful, can push a lot further, it has limits in that it talks only about class stratification and not the whole colonisation process and the unlawful acquisition of land. Evolutionary Critical Theory also has it limits. Blended hybridity, cultural pluralism as a melting pot of peoples doesn’t work for Indigenous people who need specificity and sovereignty, given colonisation.
3. Grande talks to a view of land that is less anthropocentric. Whenua/land has its own identity, and an innate value, that not just as a resource, and Western derived values of land miss this. Understanding that colonisation was not about racism, is important, it was about accumulation and acquisition, and racism was born from this as acquisition, justified through a superior race notion. Therefore, an Indigenous perspective, is that everybody has equal access to land, that there is a equalisation of colonised (stolen) land.

Betasamosake Simpson, L. (2017). As we have always done. University of Minnesota Press.

Bishop, R. (1998). Freeing Ourselves from Neo-Colonial Domination in Research: A Māori Approach to Creating Knowledge. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 11:2, 199-219, DOI: 10.1080/095183998236674

Grande, S. (2008). Red Pedagogy: The Un-Methodology. In N. K. Denzin, Y. S. Lincoln, & L. T. Smith. Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies (pp. 233-254). SAGE Publications, Inc.

Menzies, C .R. (2001). Reflections on Research with, for and among Indigenous Peoples. Canadian Journal of Native Education. V25, N1, pg.19-36.

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