Kovach (2010). Applying a Decolonizing Lens within Indigenous Research Frameworks. (Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations, and Contexts.)

Kovach, M. (2010). Applying a Decolonizing Lens within Indigenous Research Frameworks. In Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations, and Contexts (pp. 75–93). University of Toronto Press.

“For example, critical theorists argue that _postpositivism_, _postmodern_, and _postcolonial_ universalize marginalization and work to diffuse sites of contestation. Tuhiwai Smith critiques the ‘post’ in _postcolonial_ and suggests that ‘naming the world as “post-colonial” is, from indigenous perspectives, to name colonialism as finished business’ (1999: 99). In focusing on the ‘post’ perspective, it frees one from historical analysis.” (p 75)

“On an international level, this is felt through globalization and consumerism, which feed an economic system that preys on Mother Earth striving to sustain the human species even as we abuse her.” (p 76)

[“Going Forward Means Looking Back” (p 76) …]

“While colonization came to affect every aspect of Indigenous life, Western science in particular has worked to first subjugate and then discredit Indigenous knowledge systems and the people themselves.” (p 77)

[Maybe sounding too much like flat-earth, creationist, anti-vaxxers? Is there anything good in the “west?” –oki (p 79)]

[“Decolonizing Perspective within Indigenous Research Frameworks” (p 80) …]

“Another approach utilizes a decolonizing theory as its centring epistemology, thus becoming easily associated with transformative research. It is possible to situate decolonizing methodologies as falling under the umbrella of an Indigenous research framework, but given its critical theoretical basis, it is more aligned with Western critical research methodologies. In this framework, there would be an indication and acknowledgment of a transformative theoretical base.” (p 80)

“‘How do researchers write their interpretation without ‘othering’ their research participants, exploiting them, or leaving them voiceless in the telling of their own stories?’ (Liamputtong, 2007: 165).” (p 81)

“Beliefs about the purpose of knowledge and research are integrated into this continuum — is the purpose of knowledge and research solely to serve the researcher’s interest or must they serve society in a beneficial manner? Of course, this begs the further question, beneficial by whose definition?” (p 81)

“A more common difficulty is that in an effort to serve both Indigenous and Western audiences, without clearly identifying epistemologies the methodology becomes ad hoc (Deloria, 1999: 33) and difficult for either audience to assess.” (p 82)

[“The Political Is Personal” (p 83) …]

“… critical theorists will be asked to consider a worldview that holds beliefs about power, where it comes from, and how it is manifested, which will, at times, align with Western thought and at other times not. While this may pose a challenge, it is likely that even if critical theorists cannot fully embrace Indigenous methodologies, they would argue that doing so can be a legitimate option.” (p 86)

“Indigenous researchers aspire to build capacity in communities by increasing the level of educational attainment among community members. At certain points in our colonial history, motivations for engaging with Western schooling can be traced back to the colonial residue of internalized oppression that manifested itself in the acceptance of Western knowledge as legitimate. … [page break] … A pragmatic and highly political strategy within research has been the approach set out in the article entitled ‘Ownership, Control, Access and Possession (OCAP) of Research or Self- Determination Applied to Research: A Critical Analysis of Contemporary First Nations Research and Some Options for First Nations Communities’ (Schnarch, 2004). … Within Indigenous research frameworks, a decolonizing lens will remain until it is no longer needed.” (p 86-87)

[“A Conversation with Graham Smith” (p 87) …]

“[Graham] … In my view the Western academy has a number of theoretical models and tools embedded within it. Many of those tools come from different cultural roots, and many of those tools may well be useful in a universal way.” (p 88)

‘[Graham] … we as Indigenous peoples walk away from and disengage from the academy at our peril given that the academy performs the vital societal role of producing the elite knowledge in society.” (p 89)

‘[Graham] … The politics of truth is about knowing the limits and the capacities of what we as Indigenous scholars can and cannot achieve in the university context — it challenges us to stop bullshitting. There are many of our own Indigenous academic faculty, staff, and students who argue for space for self-determination and sovereignty within the academy. While the sentiment is laudable, there is a huge contradiction here.” (p 89)

[Edit in original –oki …]

“[Graham] … My methodology was to put myself as a Maori researcher at the centre of the project and all that this entails. I argue for subjectivity as being a more honest position. I declare openly that I am arguing for my language, knowledge, and culture and against reproducing colonizing forces in my research. I name these things overtly. I wrote my personal story at the front of my thesis in order to lay bare my biases and cultural nuances, preferences, [and] prejudices.” (p 90)

‘[Graham] … I am not going to say Western theory is useless, that it’s white man’s knowledge and we shouldn’t use it and all that stuff. That’s a load of bull — we need to use all the very best available theoretical and methodical tools, and where necessary develop new approaches when these tools are inadequate.” (p 91)

‘[Graham] … we really need to understand the politics of colonization, although I don’t like to talk about colonization. This is because such expression (colonization) puts the colonizer at the centre of the discourse and we are positioned to become reactive.” (p 91)

“[Graham] … there is some knowledge which is regarded as being sacred or restricted, and if bringing such knowledge into the academy is going to cause angst to others, then it shouldn’t be brought in. … There are plenty of other things to write about, research, and study for a thesis that do not open up Indigenous knowledge to disrespect, exploitation, and colonizing.” (p 92)

“Critical theory and a decolonizing approach have assisted in providing an analysis for making visible the power dynamics within society, as well as developing the tools to think, write, and be in a way that furthers social justice.” (p 92)

“Critical theorists have been instrumental in creating space in the academy for decolonizing thought and Indigenous knowledges, and their contributions ought to be noted.” (p 93)

Selected References

  • Deloria, V., Jr. (Ed.). (1999). Spirit and Reason: The Vine Deloria Reader. Golden, CO: Fulcrum.
  • Liamputtong, P. (2007). Researching the Vulnerable. London: Sage.
  • Tuhiwai Smith, L. (1999). Decolonizing Methodologies – Research and Indigenous Peoples. London: Zed.
  • Schnarch, B. (2004). Ownership, control, access, and possession (OCAP) or self-determination applied to research: A critical analysis of contemporary First Nations research and some options for First Nations communities. Journal of Aboriginal Health 1(1): 80–94. 
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