- Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples
Linda Tuhiwai Smith's book, Decolonizing Methodologies, provides a convenient template for viewing the impact Western-minded research, historically, has had upon effecting voice and identity in Indigenous communities. Her treatment of how its methods, in a number of ways, have undermined the integrity of countless Indigenous communities, has provided her with insight about the kind of epistemological shift that will be necessary for researchers to provide meaning, balance, and sensitivity to voice within Indigenous communities. By reviewing the way research has been shaped and woven into the grand narrative of Imperialism and expressed in the language of Colonialism (e.g. Manifest Destiny), she is able to argue that this shift should resemble nothing less than a tour de force, [End Page 285] where Western versions of history, writing, and theory must be carefully re-evaluated or deconstructed for lack of efficiency in giving justice to the Indigenous voice. The richness of this type of solid research should include the heterogeneity of voice, the kind the Maori people have traditionally called mana and rangatiratanga. It is a principle about living and being that has been known forever in New Zealand, where Indigenous people hold the sovereign right to voice, determine, participate, and shape their own destinies. The author is an associate professor of education at the University of Aukland, New Zealand. She is also director of the International Research Institute for Maori and Indigenous Education at Aukland, and is a committee member on a number of advisory boards. Finally, Smith has authored a number of scholarly articles related to commentary about Indigenous New Zealand issues.
The first five chapters attempt to demonstrate how notions about research were developed and refined into a formidable Zeitgeist about the Other within the historical context of Imperialism. She begins to build her argument out of the debris that history, theory, and writing have left in the wake of establish-ing the Other as the primary caricature of Indigenous culture. Even though she has critically articulated the way that these methods are really guises for "a particular realization of the imperial imagination," (23) Smith remains insistent that this triad can be reasonably redeemed to overcome its own prejudices for better service in representing Indigenous communities. Writing, for instance, must become more than detailing the injustices of Imperialism, but should also be used as a means to begin rebuilding the integrity that has been ripped away from the body of countless Indigenous cultures. Further into the chapters, she continues to emphasis the difficulty of representation by describing how the notion of Other was coded into an archival system of irrelevant ideas, fragments, and images about human nature. The archive is especially difficult to overcome, because the manifestations of its representation (e.g. theories about human nature), stock and barrel, are taken for granted by those people who use them in research. In order to undermine the hegemony of this archive, opportunities must be granted to Indigenous people that allow them to speak directly about how these ideas and images make them feel as an Other. Where much of this archive began to be filled in with Greek philosophy during their city-state period, the quantity of its volume occurred during the Enlightment and Industrial Revolution. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, European scholars like Hume, Bacon, Kant, Hegel, and Freud provided profound twists and turns that reinforced intellectual notions about the Other. Perhaps the most potent inflection about it during this period was the rationale that supported trade between Imperial powers and Indigenous peoples. It resulted in an ominous misappropriation of Indigenous knowledge, based more on the belief that knowledge is discovered rather than a living entity of Indigenous culture. Furthermore, this [End Page 286] type of rationale had reduced Indigenous people and their knowledge into a commodity similar to other natural resources to be exploited and appropriated for profit.
The remaining five chapters provide some thoughts about establishing the contour of alternative methods of research that would avoid the colonial-minded mistakes made by...