Academic journal article Knowledge Cultures

Indigenous Knowledge, Methodology and Mayhem: What Is the Role of Methodology in Producing Indigenous Insights? A Discussion from Matauranga Maori

Academic journal article Knowledge Cultures

Indigenous Knowledge, Methodology and Mayhem: What Is the Role of Methodology in Producing Indigenous Insights? A Discussion from Matauranga Maori

Article excerpt

Introduction

The emergence and expansion of a discrete academic discourse called Indigenous knowledge internationally, and matauranga Maori in Aotearoa New Zealand, presents some wonderful and substantive challenges to conceptions of knowing and being, of knowledge creation, knowledge work and the making of meaning. These challenges engage us across philosophical, disciplinary, institutional, inter-generational, territorial and community boundaries and present an exciting opportunity to imagine this old/new field and the theories and methodologies that inform contemporary Maori and/or Indigenous Studies. This article raises some discussion on what may loosely be called 'research methodologies' being used when discussing matauranga Maori and Indigenous knowledge (hereafter referred to as IK matauranga). Research methodologies are often associated with specific disciplines of knowledge and are viewed by those disciplines as the primary, often singular, way in which knowledge is generated. They provide the rationale for research questions and legitimate critical concepts, and they justify the use of specific methods. Arguably, IK matauranga resides within a different knowledge space altogether from traditional academic disciplines including their transdisciplinary interstices. The academic literature on Indigenous knowledge identifies a noisy, politicised, historically nuanced, transdisciplinary, epistemological and ontological set of understandings and vocabularies of indigenous knowledge. This article speaks to a gnawing sense that mayhem is at play as the academic work around IK matauranga begins to consolidate and become institutionalised away from its indigenous communities and contexts, where it began and where it still informs identities, ways of living and being.

Why might it be important to consider the role of research methodologies in IK matauranga scholarship? In short, because Indigenous Peoples have struggled for the legitimacy of indigenous knowledge and are wary, sceptical even, of academic attempts to over-determine IK matauranga Maori to ensure that it 'fits' existing academic regimes of control such as research performance measures, publish or perish drivers, and even genuine desires to include matauranga in the curriculum. Secondly, it is important to recognise the depth of expertise of our own community based knowledge keepers to conduct those extraordinary, metaphysical tasks, such as mediating the material and spiritual world, escorting a spirit on a physical and spiritual journey, binding ancient genealogies with contemporary realities, sustaining relationships while healing collective grief, seeking visions and teachings from our ancestors, or cleansing people and spaces. The knowledge that sits behind these roles and responsibilities is often not recognised, understood or valued by non-indigenous colleagues or institutions, likened more--as it often is--to religious rituals, dogma and ceremonies than to forms of knowledge production. Historically it has been seen more as the subject matter of research done by outsiders about indigenous cultures than as the creation and application of knowledge conducted by experts and supported by different intellectual traditions.

Thirdly, there is an easy tendency to oversimplify the way IK matauranga is defined in opposition to western knowledge and science and then to make claims about how IK matauranga is produced. Hierarchies of knowledge and knowing also re-inscribe false binaries between one form of knowledge and another, and therefore between one kind of indigenous subjectivity and another. Finally, it is important to ask those awkward and critical questions about the kind of IK matauranga being constructed, produced and authorised through the different methodological approaches to research, including methods that claim to be from IK matauranga frameworks. In other words, are methodologies simply new technologies of cultural assimilation, of governance and the disciplining of knowledge, or are they expanding the known worlds of IK matauranga for the well-being of indigenous Maori people? …

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