Is History Is Writing Is Research Is …

June 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s Decolonizing Methodologies posits provocative questions: “Is History Important for Indigenous Peoples?” and “Is Writing Important for Indigenous Peoples?” These questions speak to the totalizing feedback loop of colonialism, as but one expression of imperialism, that become reproduced in the current formations of institutional/economic/political/social systems. Writing/Theory/History have been (and continue to be) predicated on a sense of Otherness connecting to “what is worthy of being history” in the industrial state.

There is a tension between what research is and how indigeneity is implicated in it. As well as a friction: carving out space for alternative knowledges and histories don’t replace the concurrent existence of imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Smith writes something like how there are always collisions with dominant views while also attempting to transform them. All of these things reside in tandem – the hard fact of land rights yet the complete denial of land rights (subsequently the denial of being a settler) – and it is infuriating. “We” talked through this in relation to value systems (beyond the particular/beyond the universally dominant/what is valued and what isn’t/what is legitimated/what becomes legitimated research becomes monetized).

We”, being settlers in the room, and along with the admission of AAB having yet to formally engage with colonialism discourse head on during sessions, discussed the ways in which the questions directed at researchers (Whose research is it? Who owns it? Whose interests does it serve? Is her spirit clear? What other baggage are they carrying?) are taken up in our collective and individual work. How do we read and interpret a text, like Smith’s, that speaks to a particular subject position where we’re not appropriating the thesis as our own but still internalizing its message in order to decolonize? Speaking for AAB, we talked about how consensus and the mastery of a selected text has never really been of interest, and that the group itself has been structured around encouraging alternative readings of texts – or at least ways of reading and interpretation that are given less traction in the academy.

Naturally there is lots more to say! Best to come join us next week for a reading of Rey Chow’s “Postmodern Automatons” and Silvia Federici’s “Women, Land Struggles, and the Reconstruction of the Commons.” The readings can be found on our schedule. Some of us will be driving northwards, discussing the texts and swatting black flies in tandem!

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