Decolonising settler relationships to indigenous knowledges Avril Bell University of Auckland
How can a non-Aboriginal person, after centuries of appropriation and destruction of Indigenous civilizations, free himself or herself from deeply ingrained, imperious habits of thought and behaviour and approach this [indigenous] symbol in the appropriate way? (Tully, 1995:19)
4 ‘post-British’ settler societies • ANZ • Australia • Canada • USA • Looking at their shared ‘settler imaginary’ and possibilities for overcoming/replacing it
The settler imaginary • Social imaginaries • ‘the ways [ordinary] people imagine their social existence, how they fit together with others, how things go on between them and their fellows, the expectations that are normally met, and the deeper normative notions and images that underlie those expectations.’ • are changeable as new theories penetrate and transform the social imaginary – ‘[T]he new understanding comes to be accessible to the participants in a way it wasn’t before. It begins to define the contours of their world and can eventually come to count as the taken-for-granted shape of things, too obvious to mention’. • Charles Taylor (2004) , pp. 23-9
The settler imaginary - the will to mastery • Settler people are at the centre • Indigenous people have to accommodate to settler ways • Settlers can understand indigenous peoples & cultures • Settlers can pass judgement on indigenous peoples & cultures
It galls us that Western researchers and intellectuals can assume to know all that it is possible to know of us, on the basis of their brief encounters with some of us. It appalls us that the West can desire, extract and claim ownership of our ways of knowing, our imagery, the things we create and produce, and then simultaneously reject the people who created and developed those ideas and seek to deny them further opportunities to be creators of their own culture and own nations. - Linda Tuhiwai Smith (1999: 1)
Liberal pedagogy & the will to mastery The desire for the ‘recognition of difference turns out to be [about] access for dominant groups to the thoughts, cultures, and lives of others’ (Jones, 1999: 308) Pedagogical models Liberal, bicultural, dialogical Parallel, separate, one Maori/Pasifika-centred, one Pakeha Alison Jones & Kuni Jenkins
The settler imaginary – unitary time • Indigenous ways of being belong in the past. There is only one way to be modern. • There is only one way of conceiving of time – one form of temporality.
So Māoris are to be afforded ‘customary fishing rights’, whatever that may mean. How about insisting that they exercise that right in a ‘customary’ way? In other words, let them adze‑hack a canoe from a kauri [tree], manhandle the thing to the ocean, then dangle bone hooks from lengths of plaited flax. (Morley, letter to the editor, Dominion, 14 May, 1998, p6) [Morley’s argument] makes as much sense as insisting that landowners (whose title also ultimately derives from cession to the Crown under the same Treaty) should be allowed to cultivate their land only by use of horse-drawn ploughs. In other words, it makes no sense at all. (Simpson, letter to the editor, Dominion, 29 January, 1998, p8)
Relationships with indigenous ways of being • Tradition/modernity split = the denial of coevalness – Johannes Fabian • Coevalness requires an ‘actual confrontation with the ‘Time of the Other’ (Fabian, 1983: 153)
Towards a relational imaginary • Abandoning expectation of mastery and the expectation that we can (and should be able to) know anything we want (or if we can’t understand it, it must be rubbish) • Coevalness of indigenous ways of being
Deborah Bird Rose - anthropologist, UNSW, Australia • David Moore • English & indigenous literature • University of Montana, USA • Molly Blyth • English & indigenous literature • Trent University, Canada
Molly Blyth – relational pedagogy • How to teach without reproducing the university’s ‘colonial hierarchies of power and oppression’ (Blyth, 2008: 65). • At once the expert and the one who doesn’t know, who sits ‘outside the circles of cultural knowledge within these rooms’ (Blyth, 2008: 66). • Remain ‘open to the idea that there are things we do not and will not know’ (Blyth, 2008: 66).
David Moore – ‘unreasonable fallibility’ & ‘radical understanding’ • Silences in indigenous literature offer the non-indigenous reader ‘rough knowledge’ that ‘allows for uncertainty, for relationality in understanding, for fallibility’ and provides a guide to ‘an ethics of [literary] criticism’ (Moore, 1997: 651). • Radical understanding is […] a humane, unremitting recognition of difference, of human fragmentation ... [that] begins with an understanding that “I cannot understand”, a recognition that the other has a right not to be known. (Moore, 1997:651)
Deborah Bird Rose – ‘ethics of experience’ • Calls for an anthropology based on an ‘ethics of experience’ • e.g. her own learning from experience in relation to indigenous teachers • that the living world is filled with both human and non-human forms of sentience; that the world is filled with patterns and communications; that living responsibly requires one to take notice and to take care. This was threshold learning for me; once across those leaps, it was neither reasonable nor possible to go back. Having learnt to experience the vivid and expressive presence of other living things, there was, for me, no good reason, and probably no way, to return to a duller world. (Rose, 2007:91)
Deborah Bird Rose – ‘situated availability’ • Situated • being in the ‘here and now’ • Being aware of the histories that bring us to the encounter • Availability • not pre-judging the outcome, being open • you take risks and make yourself vulnerable. But this is also a fertile stance; your own ground, indeed your own self, can become unstabilized. In open dialogue, one holds oneself available to be surprised, to be challenged, and to be changed. (Rose, 2007:100)