Smith (2012). Notes from Down Under. (Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples.)

Smith, L. T. (2012). Notes from Down Under. In Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (Second edition, pp. 98-110). Dunedin: Otago University Press.

[“The End of One Part, the Beginning of Another” (p 110) …]

“In the township that I come from there is a church for every _marae_. In fact, there are more churches than would seem possible in such a small community. While the churches on the _marae_ are usually Anglican, the religion brought to Maori by early missionaries, the churches which are on the main street are the churches of the Latter Day Saints, the Seventh Day Adventists, the Assembly of God. For a while there was an underground campaign which resulted in the burning down of several churches. Disillusioned young people try to make sense of their lives while being put through training programmes to prepare for work in communities where no one is employing. Television imports American culture and educates the tastes of the young for labelled clothes and African American rap.” (p 111)

“Is this imperialism? No, we are told, this is post-colonialism. This is globalization. This is economic independence. This is tribal development. This is progress. Others tell us that this is the end of modernism, and therefore the end of imperialism as we have known it. That business is now over, and so are all its associated projects such as decolonization.” (p 112)

“While the West might be experiencing fragmentation, the process of fragmentation known under its older guise as colonization is well known to indigenous peoples. We can talk about the fragmentation of lands and cultures. We know what it is like to have our identities regulated by laws and our languages and customs removed from our lives. Fragmentation is not an indigenous project; it is something we are recovering from.” (p 112)

[“The New Language of Imperialism” (p 113) …]

“The North–South divide has become a more meaningful way of distinguishing between what were once referred to as First, Second, Third and Fourth worlds. Territories are called markets, interesting little backwaters are untapped potentials, and tribal variations of culture and language are examples of diversity. Evangelicals and traders still roam its landscape, as fundamentalists and entrepreneurs.” (p 113)

“For indigenous peoples, one term that has signalled the striking shift in discourse is ‘post-colonial’. Naming the world as ‘post-colonial’ is, from indigenous perspectives, to name colonialism as finished business. … There is rather compelling evidence that in fact this has not occurred. … [page break] … Decolonization, once viewed as the formal process of handing over the instruments of government, is now recognized as a long-term process involving the bureaucratic, cultural, linguistic and psychological divesting of colonial power.” (p 113-114)

“Corporate chiefs and corporate warriors attempt to make deals with the new brokers of power and money. In developing countries these elites still protect the interests of the big Western power blocs. Many such leaders, though totally corrupted and evil, are kept in power by the very states which espouse democracy and human rights. Other indigenous leaders have become separated from their own indigenous value system and have been swept up into the games and machinations of a world they only partly understand. Divide and rule still operates as a basic strategy for dealing with indigenous peoples.” (p 114)

[“Twelve Ways to be Researched (Colonized)” (p 114) …]

“Rapid scientific and technological advances this century place indigenous peoples and other marginalized and oppressed groups at extreme risk in the next century. … [page break] … As Jerry Mander has argued, the unrelenting imperative of corporations and governments to promote technology as a solution to our lives is the same imperative which suppresses and destroys indigenous alternatives.1” (p 114-115)

[“1 Having your genealogy and identity (cell-lines) stolen, patented, copied” (p 115-116) …]

“… The Human Genome Diversity Project (HUGO) is the largest and best-known attempt to map the genetic diversity of isolated and threatened indigenous communities.” (p 116)

[“2 Having the umbilical cord blood of aborted babies ‘farmed'” (p 116) …]

[“3 Having your cultural institutions and their rituals patented either by a non-indigenous person or by another indigenous individual” (p 116) …]

[“4 Scientific and political reconstruction of a previously extinct indigenous people” (p 117) …]

[“5 Dying and then coming back to life as a flock of sheep or variety of tomatoes” (p 117) …]

[“6 Commodifying indigenous spirituality” (p 118) …]

“New Age groups currently appropriate indigenous spiritual beliefs at will; some claim to be inhabited by indigenous spirit guides while others merely interpret their ‘own’ (individualized) dreams as an indigenous spiritual experience.” (p 118)

[“7 Creating virtual culture as authentic culture” (p 118) …]

[“8 Feeding consumption, tuberculosis of the marketplace” (p 118) …]

“… television now provides the medium through which the tastes for American culture are fed in a constant barrage of advertising. Indigenous communities notice it most in the young, whose new heroes have become American sports or rap stars, whose language is peppered with American expressions and whose interactions with adults have become tainted with the social relations of middle-class white America. Consumption and the constant [page break] need to possess more and more ‘things’ become more important for many young people than the collective value systems of their own communities. The danger is that consumption masks economic and political inequalities and numbs people into believing that they are autonomous ‘choosers’ in a culturally neutral marketplace.” (p 118-119)

[“9 Creating sovereign reservations for the elite” (p 119) …]

“The city is the dominating metaphor for the apparent breakdown of Western social values, systems and practices. … The very wealthy have always been able to escape, while the middle classes have been able to move out to suburbia or go on holiday from time to time. The middle classes, however, are also shifting more permanently into their own security zones with privatized police forces and self-contained social services. The possibility of disengaging themselves from the Other through the establishment of sovereign reserves is not too far-fetched.” (p 119)

[“10 Denial of global citizenship” (p 119) …]

[“11 Exercising terror in the twenty-first century” (p 119) …]

“Hidden within, and perhaps legitimated by the [page break] war on terror, have been other terrorisms inflicted on civilian populations and on vulnerable communities.” (p 119-120)

[“12 Let them eat cake” (p 120) …]

“Food dependency, food impoverishment, and the monoculture of food products all contribute to a world that is starving.” (p 120)

[“The Next Decades” (p 120) …]

“It is after all very arrogant of humans to assume a beginning, to name it and set its date, when we are such minor [page break] beings in the universe …” (p 120-121)

“In the process of global changes indigenous peoples are socially interested activists rather than passive bystanders. Perhaps it is this positioning that offers greater possibility for the survival of indigenous peoples.” (p 121)

“The commodification of knowledge as intellectual property, of collective knowledge as public knowledge, and of knowledge as value-added takes the struggle into another set of cultural interpretations.” (p 121)

“Jerry Mander’s chart of distinctive differences between technological and natives peoples poses starkly contrasting world views which have generated starkly different ways of organizing social, political, economic and spiritual life.12” (p 122)

“What is more important than what alternatives indigenous peoples offer the world is what alternatives indigenous peoples offer each other. The strategies that work for one community may well work for another. … To be able to share, to have something worth sharing, gives dignity to the giver. To accept a gift and to reciprocate gives dignity to the receiver. To create something new through that process of sharing is to recreate the old, to reconnect relationships and [page break] to recreate our humanness.” (p 122-123)

Selected References

  • 1. Mander, J. (1991), In the Absence of the Sacred: the Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations, Sierra Club Books, San Francisco.
  • 12. Mander, In the Absence of the Sacred, pp. 215–19.
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