Thursday, September 4, 2014

ethical space and listening, listening, listening

 Ethics - Indigenous - Research

written by Robin Wild and Morgen Ruelle

Ethics and research partnerships
led by Kelly Bannister

This workshop focused on relational ethics, the emerging body of philosophy pertaining to how we should live together.  Relational ethics is particularly important for ethnobiologists because interactions between researchers and communities of knowledge holders have often been exploitative, as highlighted by the biopiracy/bioprospecting debate. 
Murodbek, Michelle, Morgen from Cornell University

Kelly told a personal story about her struggle as a graduate student to convince her own university to develop equitable partnerships with First Nations in Canada, including informed consent, benefit sharing, and documentation of rights and responsibilities.  In 1996, the ISE started work on a Code of Ethics, which was completed in 2006 .  A core value of the ISE Code of Ethics is mindfulness, which Maori elder Mana Cracknell described as “an obligation to be fully aware of one’s knowing and unknowing, doing and undoing, action and inaction”. 
Kelly Bannister from British Columbia in Bhutan
Another important concept is “ethical space”, an area of interaction between people who inhabit different sociocultural realities.  While one might conceive of ethical space as an area of overlappin values, Willie Ermine proposes that it is an inbetween space, in which both parties find ways to move forward.  Collaboration and communication are risky, particularly in negotiations related to assumptions, values, and orientations.  At the end of the workshop, Kelly demonstrated how Aikido practice can be a useful analogy for the ethical space that occurs within the research process.

Indigenous perspective led by Verna Miller

Developing relationships is one of the most important aspects of working with indigenous
Verna Miller and the participants, other mentors of the workshop
communities. Through developing relationships the aim is to cultivate a sense of credibility that is held by indigenous communities in relation to the researcher or the 'outsider' working in that specific community. There has to be an understanding that the research is not solely for the benefit of the researcher but for the knowledge holders.
Maintaining initial relationships for the long term is also important and is key in creating a sense of mutual understanding between both the researchers and researched.  An important aspect of this is listening, listening again, and listening some more, as Verna emphasized. Providing communities with research findings is also important and is a way of feeding back into the community, however in many cases findings are presented in inaccessible formats such as English written journal articles with scientific jargon.
Another essential aspect of research is in the presenting of findings and this relates to the acknowledgement of where this information has come from detailing that the community or group who provided the knowledge are the rightful custodians of this knowledge.

from the editor: very good book on this topic: 
Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples

Robin Wild and Meadhbh Costigan

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