Critical examination of the ethics in research involving Indigenous peoples
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This study examines the ethics of Western research involving Indigenous Peoples. The primary aim is to uncover the discursive strategies that impede Indigenous Peoples' social and political empowerment and the ethical issues revolving around such scholarship. The objective of this thesis is to uncover the assumptions, motivations, and values of Western research and scholarship involving Indigenous Peoples. The research addresses the distinction between assumptions about Indigenous Peoples as evidenced in the research process and the political, historical, and social reality of Indigenous Peoples. These distinctions are fundamental to the objective of negotiating an ethical order in knowledge production and research that impacts cross-cultural relation. The crucial positioning at the confluence of two worldviews enables a negotiation through counter claims as a process of developing an alternate model of knowing that illustrates a different perspective on researching. Critical theory is utilized as a methodology to analyze the existing power structures and social inequalities that play a role in the nature of research involving Indigenous Peoples. This study does this by theoretical and qualitative writing that employs literature resources such as articles, documents, and books written by an increasing number of social critics from various fields and backgrounds. Numerous critical programs within the theory are used to provide avenues of critique and to pursue the development of alternate knowledge through the theory's language of possibility. In this respect, the author's voice is woven into the body of the methodology to introduce elements of primary research and as a bridging process to develop alternate views on knowledge and the research process from the Indigenous Peoples' perspective. This thesis explores the basic principles of Western knowledge production to identify contradictions that would suggest inappropriate foundations for programs of research and discourses concerning Indigenous Peoples. A critical reading of literature highlights the body of critique in regards to the nature of Western research and discourses circumscribing the Western encounter with Indigenous Peoples. The introduction of the Indigenous worldview into the theoretical process illustrates a different and contrasting perspective to the idea of knowledge and its production. The encounter of these contrasting worldviews creates an ethical space, a place between worldviews, where the intentions of each are submitted for negotiation. The conceptual development of the ethical space opens up the possibility for configuring new models of research and knowledge production that is mutually developed through negotiation and respect in crosscultural interaction. The role of Indigenous scholars, along with non-Indigenous allies, will be important in the formation of ethical processes of research that contemplates crossing cultural borders. The Indigenous scholar's position at the confluence of worldviews is crucial in the work required to assert and realign perspectives about Indigenous Peoples and their knowledge. Developing and disseminating Indigenous Peoples' perspectives about society and knowledge is crucial in advancing not only critique, but also in developing new forms of knowledge. The perspective of Indigenous Peoples represents a gaze on the Western world that reflects the nature of its being in moral and ethical terms.Through this thesis work, I have found it is necessary to place critique within a proper and broader context that includes alternate knowledge paradigms. Critical thought with links to Western paradigms and structures cannot properly accommodate the full range of desire to develop new systems of knowledge production. The language of possibility envisioned by the theory offers the avenue to pursue alternative models of knowing in trying to achieve the goal of emancipation. The goal of emancipation for Indigenous Peoples will require the assertion of Indigenous perspectives within a theory of the possible and as a transition to an Indigenous research methodology. Understanding Western social structures and systems, and the role of education in the process of knowledge and cultural transmission, is a vital necessity in coming to terms with research involving Indigenous Peoples. The system of knowledge production and its dissemination in the West has vestiges of influence from a history of colonialism and imperialism. These vestiges of colonialism translate as appropriation and exploitation of Indigenous Peoples' knowledge in the modern context. Current waves of research projects from Western institutions, under global economic auspices, threaten to continue the appropriation and exploitation of Indigenous Peoples' intellectual and cultural property. Confronting these neo-colonial practices requires a broad and protracted process of conscientization about research ethics, cultural imperialism, and the protection of Indigenous Peoples' knowledge. This can be partially achieved through curricula in universities and research institutions. Apart from protecting and enhancing solid and culturally respectful research, any new research involving Indigenous Peoples should immediately cease to allow for a full ethical debate. Only in this way can there be ethics in research involving Indigenous Peoples.
DegreeMaster of Education (M.Ed.)
CommitteeSt. Denis, Verna; Findlay, Leonard M. (Len); Battiste, Marie
Copyright DateJanuary 2000