Viruses without vaccines, or valuing indigenous research? The tensions of introducing Western research assessment practices into an indigenous university
Bruce Ferguson, P. (2012) Viruses without vaccines, or valuing indigenous research? The tensions of introducing Western research assessment practices into an indigenous university. Refereed paper presented at Value and Virtue in Practice-based Research Conference, York St John University, July 11 – 12.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/6727
Over my past twenty-five years of educational practice, I have striven to develop a better understanding of indigenous ways of being and doing (in New Zealand’s case, this involves the values and knowledge of Māori). I have done this by visiting and occasionally staying on marae (Māori gathering-places); by reading relevant literature; by engaging in conversations with knowledgeable scholars and by researching the impact of Western practices on indigenous peoples. In 2003 I managed a research team for Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, a Māori tertiary institution with branches across the country. Our Tertiary Education Commission had just introduced a variation of the English RAE, called the Performance-Based Research Fund, through which government research funds would henceforth be distributed. In collaboration with Māori colleagues, we chose to enter this process, believing that Māori research would be recognised and funded by our participation. While this proved to be the case, there were significant examples of values clashes, such as the requirement for people to ‘boast’ of their research achievements in a context where such boasting is anathema; to claim ownership of knowledge where tradition often indicates that knowledge is not the property of individuals; and worst, at one point I found myself accused by my Māori manager of introducing ‘viruses without vaccines’. By this he meant Westernised ideas and practices which appeared to be benevolent but in fact were toxic (the idea derives from white settlers who apparently gave native Americans blankets permeated with a virus, causing thousands to die). In this paper I will explore tensions of operating cross-culturally, and whether/how we can protect people from unintended toxic consequences of intended benevolent actions.
© 2010 The Author
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