- Research and (Re?)Conciliation:Imagining Eighth Fire Scholarship in Action
We have arrived despairingly at a time when compassion and care are qualities that do not lend themselves to the world of intellectual thought.(Hogan 119)
Introduction: Live Embers in the House of Shame
Weeks before I boarded a bus to attend the Woodland Cultural Centre TRC Workshop in October 2016, I had attended a gathering of scholars from across many disciplines, who had come together to wrestle with questions of ethics in their own research projects. Each one of these scholars is a highly attuned and aware individual. All shared the understanding that the research that we publish does contain power-a power to shift the balance and so change the world to come for good or for ill. And all shared a sincere desire to interrogate their own practices and fine-tune their own processes to ensure that the "yield" they distribute contributes to a project of inspired and positive reworlding.
During one presentation, a researcher mentioned that she had been invited to a party at the home of one of the participants in her oral-history research project. During the course of her project, this researcher had visited her informant, recording intimate life stories, and over this time, it seems, a relationship had developed. Nonetheless, this researcher declined the invitation. "Of course," she told us. She could not attend. Questioned at the symposium, she confided that she had not wanted to "blur the lines." She had not wanted to give her informant the idea that they were "friends."
I could not understand this because I am an Anishinaabe educator, artist, and [End Page 550] researcher. The work that I do, perforce, begins with the premise that all participants are partners in whatever project we are pursuing, whatever knowledge we are creating. We all have (or should have) a personal stake in the project, and for the research partner who stands outside the academy and its privileges, the stakes are precariously high: the project we undertake together may mean the difference between health and dis-ease or between continuance and dissolution-for the individual, for her family, for her community, and for her descendants yet unborn.
The idea that her would-be hostess was a colleague-a partner in the endeavour and not simply a "subject," an "informant," or a "participant"-seemed to surprise this researcher. The "story" she would ultimately publish about this community of women would be "research," because she is a "researcher." The hard-won life lessons they shared, the analyses of their experiences, and the willingness to articulate and to engage in discourse around these things were "other": they were not research. It is important to reiterate in this moment that this researcher is, like everybody who was in the room that day, a highly ethical, conscious, and conscientious woman. She demonstrated a deep appreciation for the responsibility she bears to her research partners and to the stories with which they had entrusted her. And yet, the institutional lacuna that divides the academic insider/specialist from those who stand outside of the academy had to be assiduously maintained.
I am not suggesting that respect-that carefully holding and nurturing the relationship between partner and partner in the research endeavour-must always result in lifelong friendship, although in the context of Indigenous research, it often does. But I wonder if this research partner was not extending an invitation to deepen their relationship? Perhaps this research partner wanted the researcher to see something that would expand her understanding and shift her own analysis of the stories she now held and would disseminate.
Neither researcher nor research partner, in this case, is Indigenous. But for me, this does not matter. It is my position that if Indigenous attitudes to the practice of research are to be adopted because they are valuable-because they help us to map out a good process, which results in a beneficial product-then these methods are equally valuable and applicable to projects in which there are no Indigenous participants. Respect, Responsibility, Reciprocity, and Reverence (see Archibald 41-56) are good research pillars that inform a...