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Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples

The State of Indigenous Peoples Today

It has been more than twenty years since Decolonizing Methodologies was first published and eight years since the second edition. One of the most quoted terms from that first edition was that research was one of the ‘dirtiest words’ in the vocabulary of Indigenous peoples. In the time since the first edition there have been significant changes for the agenda of Indigenous peoples. The Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2007, the culmination of the movement of Indigenous peoples across the globe and recognition by the states and governments of the United Nations. The largest international association of Indigenous scholars was formed in 2015, known as NAISA, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, alongside the emergence of new international networks such as the Indigenous Data Sovereignty network. Decolonizing and decolonial work alongside Indigenous scholarship has accelerated in terms of the breadth of intellectual work being undertaken across the globe.

There is a growing interest in the contribution of Indigenous knowledge to science and efforts in some jurisdictions to include Indigenous knowledge in official policies. The capacity of Indigenous researchers has improved with higher education courses offered by many institutions to prepare people to work with and for Indigenous communities using Indigenous methodologies and working with Indigenous knowledge. Some disciplines and institutions have also confronted the need to decolonize their scholarship and work hard to recognize diversity of knowledge and of researchers as a community. Activist campaigns, such as #Idlenomore, The Idle No More Campaign, #NoDAPL The Dakota Access Pipeline Protest at Standing Rock, #Rhodes Must Fall, Black Lives Matter,MeToo, Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women MMIW, the Mauna Kea and TMT Protest, have all called attention to the failure of states and governments, societies and institutions to address the deep injustices that stem from the legacy of colonialism.

The use of the hashtag # has also changed the way ideas and movements are propelled into public consciousness. Make no mistake, however, that despite some indications of positive change, it is still dangerous in the twenty-first-century to be an Indigenous person and ‘research’ remains a dirty word for many of the world’s Indigenous peoples and communities. The continued resistance of Indigenous peoples is seen by many powerful elites as a barrier to development, a drag on the economy and an affront to the nation state. No real progress has been made to decolonize the major knowledge and political institutions of academia, although discourse may have shifted to words such as reconciliation, inclusion and diversity. Indigenous activists in
Central and South America have been assassinated or have disappeared in suspicious circumstances, with their homelands and their food sources and forests set on fire.

The Use of Hashtags and Social Media

Highly respected Indigenous leaders have been  rebranded by their own governments as terrorists. More Indigenous languages have become extinct as our language communities are left to die. The effects of a changing climate, a warming ocean and a polluted environment are threatening the very existence of Indigenous communities across the Pacific. Yes, it is still dangerous to identify as an Indigenous person, and in every settler society where Indigenous peoples are officially recognized and identified in official statistics, major systemic social inequities and injustices abound. The language, discourse and framing of responses to Indigenous rights continue to be fraught with colonizer/settler anxieties and privilege dominating what it means to implement agenda for indigenization or decolonization, reconciliation or recognition. These potentially radical gestures of recognition when implemented can end up as mealy mouthed, watered-down liberal devices that end up reinforcing the status quo. The purpose of decolonizing methodologies research and Indigenous peoples remains urgent and necessary.

Knowledge and the power to define what counts as real knowledge lie at the epistemic core of colonialism. The challenge for researchers of decolonizing methodologies as a set of knowledge-related critical practices is to simultaneously work with colonial and Indigenous concepts of knowledge, decentring one while centring the other. While this sounds straightforward, it is not. This third edition of Decolonizing Methodologies continues to conceptualize the challenges for engaging in both decolonizing practices while reimagining and bringing forward Indigenous epistemic approaches, philosophies and methodologies. These challenges are not simply about Western academic concepts of disciplinary-based ideas of social science or humanities research. Decolonizing methodologies are about forcing us to confront the Western academic canon in its entirety, in its philosophy, pedagogy, ethics, organizational practices, paradigms, methodologies and discourses and, importantly, its self-generating arrogance, its origin mythologies and the stories that it tells to reinforce its hegemony.

I have grounded my understandings of decolonizing methodologies, and of colonialism and Indigenous methodologies, in my own context of Aotearoa New Zealand. I view that positioning as an ethical responsibility, an Indigenous method of intellectual engagement that is inextricably connected to land, place, stories, context rather than claiming a universal authority over experiences and people who can speak for, themselves. In this sense, Decolonizing Methodologies is an invitation to stimulate the work that is possible for research when we as researchers decolonize our minds, our discourses, our understandings, our practices and our institutions. The core of the book remains true to the first edition, including the original Introduction, but there are some changes with this new Introduction, a new chapter laying out an additional twenty Indigenous Projects. Throughout the book, I have included some creative words that I have written and performed in some of my talks and the words of others. This Introduction to the Third Edition is a co-introduction written by a group of early career scholars who were immersed in decolonizing and Indigenous research as students and who now teach methodologies to a next generation. Their introductions say much more than I can say about the diversity and nuances of Indigenous contexts, higher education experiences, challenges and directions of their own work.

Each of their pieces highlights the ways in which decolonizing approaches open up different possibilities for research. The exercise of decolonizing methodologies has to do more than critique colonialism. It has to open up possibilities for understanding and knowing the world differently and offering different solutions to problems caused by colonialism and the failure of power structures to address these historic conditions. In preparing for this edition, I have also invited participants at conferences to identify some new Indigenous projects that will expand the twenty-five projects of the first edition. I have received written notes, emails and text messages with priorities and concerns currently faced by Indigenous communities. I have also been  nvolved with colleagues in wide-ranging research projects, from documenting M?ori approaches to healing from intergenerational trauma, to addressing homelessness through cultural support systems and M?ori knowledge approaches, to artificial intelligence and to climate change, to name but a few. These projects have all used decolonizing and Kaupapa M?ori research methodologies and methods. They all rest upon the principles of relationships, connections, reciprocity and accountability that are embedded in Indigenous understandings of ethics and knowledge and, in my view, are foundational to decolonizing theory. praxis. Meaningful decolonizing practices are not all about theory or all about action but they are all about praxis and the reflexivity that is necessary for the integrity of research and of the researcher themselves.

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