Tuesday, September 30, 2014

on the day of our field visit - Bhutan

After arriving in Lobesa in the dark of the night and retiring to bed following dinner, we engaged in 2 days of intense discussion, debates and considerations.  This occurred indoors while the monsoon rains blessed the farmers who were anxiously waiting for it. However, on the day of our field visit, we awoke to a warm and bright sunny day that seemed to present itself specifically for us. After breakfast we walked down the steep slopes boarded the buses for our long awaited journey. Driving through the villages was remarkable, with many smiling faces and interesting passersby that almost always greeted us with a smile and a wave. A brief stop at on the outskirts of the hospital allowed us the chance to grab some locally made cheese and get a few photo ops. The next location was the Lingmuteychu Watershed. It allowed us to appreciate the importance of water to the survival of the local communities. What was intriguing was the way in which water is shared between the communities that live at various altitudes and the dynamics that surround this phenomenon.
Next was a thrilling ride on a long and windy road uphill which ended at the location of the currently constructed monastery. The descent was just as exciting with many opportunities for beautiful photos of the vast scenery below. And then there was lunch, in a unique picnic style under the shades of huge trees that shed materials that make for a really comfortable bed.

Finally, we traveled to see the Punakha Dzongkhag which was originally known as the Palace of Great Happiness that is huddled at the confluence of the Pho Chhu (father) and Mo Chhu (mother) rivers.
It was truly an amazing experience, with beautiful wall paintings and the serenity of Buddhist culture. Suffice it to say that some members of the team ended up in restricted areas of the temple totally oblivious of their folly. The day ended in fine style with a nice party to bring the curtains down on the workshop.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

university and community

Balancing practical and academic research outcomes

written by        

Arren Mendezona Allegretti

PhD Candidate Ecology, Colorado State University

Center for Collaborative Conservation

Attila Paksi

 Jon Corbett, ISE Board Member and Associate Professor at UBC Okanagan facilitated this engaging workshop. Highlights included a lively discussion on the advantages and challenges of working with the university and community from academic and community perspectives.
Happy Birthday to Jon!!! :)
Some challenges from an academic perspective involve funding constraints, incompatible timelines of academics with community members, sustaining trust, and avoiding the imposition of researchers own preconceptions and values. The community perspective involves universities taking and transforming local stories out of context to match researchers’ world views. Others involve the lack of clear community benefits, consultation fatigue, language differences, miscommunication of intentions, accommodating researchers, and invasion of privacy.
From the Philippines, Arren and Amay, the
leader of the indigenous
Higaonon people in Mindanao, Philippines

Opportunities of working with the university from a community perspective involve capacity-building, sharing community identities, conservation of territory and traditional knowledge, jobs for community members, and the potential of the community being well politically-viewed. Academic perspectives may include publishing opportunities, genuine exchange of ideas and knowledge, and training opportunities for students.

View from the CNR's hostel in Lobesa
Overall, this workshop entailed reflection of varying needs and resources differentially expressed by academics and community members. Participants discussed bridging gaps between the“researcher and the researched,” particularly as we acknowledge academic roles, personal needs, interests, and values from different parties.

Arren Mendezona Allegretti 

Attila Paksi 

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