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Transforming Indigenous research: Collaborative responses to historical research tensions

  • Peter J. MatairaEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

Ongoing colonial power has long been ascribed to government bureaucracy and institutions of higher learning. By consequence, Indigenous communities today are still experiencing challenges regarding the function, foundation and fabric of research that impacts Indigenous peoples, including in the arena of social work education. Writing as an Indigenous scholar and Director of a Master of Social Work programme at a university in the Pacific region, the author’s goal in this article is twofold. On the one hand, he aims to contribute to critical self-reflection of Western research methodologies, while on the other hand offering a reconceptualisation of research tools and techniques that empower the researched and create reciprocal learning opportunities. Through discussion of Indigenous and allied or “co-conspirator” partnerships, and drawing on the example of a model called strengths-enhancing evaluation research (SEER), the author outlines observations regarding the tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers and processes. He challenges the established norms of social science research, and offers theoretical and practical examples and questions – including the notion of the researcher as a guest –, that demonstrate how higher education institutions and Indigenous and non-Indigenous collaborations can provide critical responses to historical tensions regarding research and Indigenous peoples. The conduct and behaviour of researchers can have long-lasting, unintended consequences on communities at multiple levels of well-being. The author argues that both Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers must collaboratively work with communities for change.

Keywords

social work education strengths-enhancing evaluation research (SEER) guesthood ethics decolonisation Indigenisation community engagement 

Résumé

Transformer la recherche autochtone : réponses concertées aux tensions historiques dans la recherche – La persistance du pouvoir colonial est depuis longtemps imputée à la bureaucratie gouvernementale et aux institutions d’enseignement supérieur. En conséquence, les communautés autochtones rencontrent aujourd’hui encore des défis relatifs à la fonction, au fondement et à la structure du travail de recherche, qui ont des répercussions sur les populations indigènes, y compris dans le domaine de la formation en travail social. Universitaire autochtone et directeur d’un programme de mastère en intervention sociale dans une université de la région Pacifique, l’auteur poursuit dans cet article un double objectif. Il entend d’une part contribuer à une auto-réflexion critique sur les méthodologies scientifiques occidentales; il propose d’autre part une reconceptualisation des instruments et techniques de recherche en vue d’autonomiser les sujets de l’étude et de créer des opportunités réciproques d’apprentissage. À partir du débat sur les autochtones et leurs partenariats alliés ou « co-conspirateurs », et prenant en exemple le modèle dit de Recherche évaluative de renforcement des atouts (strengths-enhancing evaluation research, SEER), l’auteur fait part de ses observations relatives aux tensions existant entre chercheurs et démarches autochtones et non-autochtones. Il remet en question les normes établies dans la recherche en sciences sociales et propose des exemples et questions tant théoriques que pratiques, dont la notion du chercheur considéré comme invité. Cette réflexion démontre que les institutions d’enseignement supérieur ainsi que les coopérations autochtones et non-autochtones peuvent fournir des réponses critiques aux tensions historiques quant à la recherche sur les peuples indigènes. La conduite et le comportement des chercheurs peuvent avoir des conséquences durables et involontaires sur les communautés, dans de nombreux aspects du bien-être. L’auteur préconise que chercheurs autochtones et non-autochtones travaillent en concertation et avec les communautés afin d’induire un changement.

Notes

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Copyright information

© UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning and Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social Work, College of Health and SocietyHawai’i Pacific UniversityKanoeheUSA

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